A cancer diagnosis commonly includes a significant dose of emotional turmoil filled with fear and anxiety. Unfortunately, many treatments also bring with them physical complications including nerve pain (neuropathy), joint and muscle pain, nausea, insomnia, and hot flashes to name but a few. While many cancer therapies such as chemotherapy and radiation are life saving for many people, patients are commonly left to suffer these side effects without relief.
Enter acupuncture. For thousands of years, billions of people throughout the world have experienced the benefits of acupuncture. While Western medicine has been slow to adapt, new research continues to turn the tide of acceptance. More and more physicians and hospitals are utilizing acupuncture in conjunction with traditional medical procedures. This partnership has helped many patients find respite from the common issues related to treatment.
A recent study completed through the Oregon Health and Science University looked at the use of acupuncture in the clinical oncology setting. According to the researchers:
“The addition of acupuncture as a treatment option at the Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) has greatly enhanced oncology patient care, on a physical and psychosocial dimension.”
Neuropathy is a common side effect of chemotherapy and/or radiation with up to 40% of patients dealing with this issue. Neuropathy occurs when the nerves in the arms or legs become irritated, resulting in pain, numbness, or weakness. As no medication has been found to provide relief, acupuncture can afford a natural and effective therapy. According to one study:
“Viewed by many patients as a natural alternative to medicine, acupuncture is among the non-pharmacologic interventions already recommended for patients with cancer to address pain.”
Nausea and vomiting are often side effects of cancer treatments. Once again, acupuncture has proven it’s worth as noted here in the Journal of Clinical Oncology:
“This review complements data on postoperative nausea and vomiting, suggesting a biologic effect of acupuncture-point stimulation.”
Seeking out integrative therapies to manage symptoms is certainly a growing trend among patients with cancer as well as many physicians. With many patients receiving a combination of care that includes chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, there are countless opportunities for acupuncture in the spectrum of care. Acupuncture, increasingly available in the oncology setting, has proven to be a safe and effective treatment that can offer the additional support patients are looking for to manage symptoms associated with cancer and cancer treatment.