Acupuncture’s use as an intervention to reduce the side effects of cancer treatment is gaining acceptability in Western Medicine. Currently there are many clinical trials that have been completed on the effects of acupuncture for a number of conditions, mostly for pain management. In cancer care, acupuncture clinical trials have focused on reducing the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation in cancer patients with some promising results. Acupuncture is most often used to reduce nausea post chemotherapy, manage peripheral neuropathy due to chemotherapy, reduce aromatase inhibitor induced joint pain and relieve xerostomia (dry mouth) from radiation treatment just to mention a few. Cancer treatment can take weeks and some times months to complete and some of these side effects may show up after treatment.
An intervention such as acupuncture is done three or four times a week in hospitals in China for ten weeks as one course of treatment. That may not be an option for most people here but in order to get results, it may require receiving acupuncture at least twice a week for a few weeks to see noticeable and lasting results for some of these conditions.
Certain cases and conditions fare better than others and the root cause of the issue needs to be discovered. For example, nausea due to chemotherapy is easier to treat than nausea and vomiting due to a tumor aggravating the Vagus nerve.
As the mechanisms of acupuncture continues to be investigated, practitioners often rely on clinical experience to assess whether it can be a useful intervention or not. The good news is that acupuncture is becoming more and more available for patients in cancer treatment centers across the country.
The beauty of acupuncture in cancer care is that it can address a number of issues at the same time such as stress reduction, pain management, insomnia and mild depression.