Acupuncture as a supportive therapy in cancer treatment

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acupuncture CAM for cancer

In the western world acupuncture is used as a complimentary therapy in a variety of medical and therapeutic settings. The practice of acupuncture can be traced back thousands of years to ancient Chinese medicine, and now research has uncovered its potential use as a modern cancer care treatments.

What Is Acupuncture?

It’s the method of using needles to stimulate your body.

The theory is that our bodies contain ‘chi’ a life-force or an energy that moves around the whole body.  Traditional practitioners believe that acupuncture can unblock areas of chi which have been stalled or blocked by illness. In the west, acupuncture is usually used as a patient support after a medical diagnosis has been made, or by individuals seeking out private practice.

Does It Work?

Scientific studies suggest that acupuncture can stimulate the nerves, producing pain relieving endorphins.

How Is It Done?

Very fine needles are placed into the skin. An acupuncturist identifies points on the body they believe are areas of blocked ‘chi’. On occasion, heat or electrical pulses are used instead of needles.

What’s The Latest Research?

There’s a growing body of researchers that believe acupuncture, and other Chinese remedies, may be useful as cancer care treatments.

Some recent studies have sought to combine all past research on acupuncture in relation to cancer, so journals, studies and trials have been brought together and examined on the whole. The findings are interesting, identifying acupuncture as a strong support for cancer related fatigue.

Here are some of the findings:

  • Acupuncture reduced episodes of diarrhoea and digestive tract reactions in chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

 

  • There is some evidence that acupuncture as a support in lung cancer could reduce myelosuppression. Myelosupression is when bone marrow activity is suppressed as a side effect of cancer treatments. This means less red and white blood cells, and fewer platelets.

 

  • Some papers suggested that acupuncture could relieve pain.

 

  • There is some evidence that acupuncture could alleviate symptoms of dyspnoea - a shortness of breath in lung cancer patients.

 

  • Acupuncture may support a reduction in fatigue. Some studies showed a 36% improvement in cancer patient fatigue levels. Acupuncture trials highlighted fatigue improvement after two weeks, and better ‘well-being’ at six weeks compared to a wait group (one that had no treatment).

What Does This Mean?

With further study, acupuncture could become a recommended support for cancer patients, particularity those with cancer related fatigue.

Cancer related fatigue is widespread. It’s not normal tiredness, but a fatigue that can’t be shifted with sleep or rest. This may be due to the cancer itself, or from cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, which leave the patient drained. There are few treatments for it, which makes the evidence for acupuncture relief exciting.

Further study has been recommended by current researchers with the suggestion that nursing staff should know about its benefits. As acupuncture is non-invasive and drug-free it’s an appealing treatment for those already overwhelmed with illness and invasive treatment programs.

Let’s hope more research goes ahead soon, because what we see so far is very promising.

 

 

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