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Acupuncture's Role in Cancer Care

Acupuncture is more and more popular for the treating health complaints such as back pain, migraines, and infertility, to name just a few. What many may not know is how helpful acupuncture and Chinese medicine can be in the arena of cancer care. It serves as supportive treatment, provides symptom management, as well as preventative care . Cancer treatment facilities all over the world are inviting their patients to use a wide array of approaches to help support them on their journey toward wellness.

It doesn’t have to be an either/or approach to cancer care using only Western or only Eastern medicine. Instead it can be a team effort using these two approaches. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City has a well-known Integrative Medical Center, where they provide services like acupuncture, psychology, and nutritional counseling. They also do extensive research on the effects of acupuncture and herbs with various types of cancer and at different stages, as well as offer courses for acupuncturists on how to properly care for cancer patients with Chinese medicine techniques. I’ve had the opportunity to take this course and I want to communicate how much acupuncture can help this population.

Here are just a few of the details of what acupuncture can do:

  • Improve the immune system

  • Improve circulation

  • Help with anemia and improve red blood cell, white blood cell, and platelet counts

  • Regulate blood pressure

  • Improve absorption of the small intestine and facilitate movement through the digestive system

  • Reduce pain associated with tumors

  • Helps stabilize peripheral nerve damage and relieve neuropathy

  • For pre-surgical patients acupuncture can promote relaxation, prevent infection and side effects

  • For post-surgical patients acupuncture can decrease swelling, improve mental alertness, and shorten recovery time

  • As palliative care acupuncture can greatly improve quality of life

  • Alleviate symptoms associated with chemotherapy such as nausea and vomiting, hair loss, fatigue, vertigo, shortness of breath, loss of appetite, and sexual dysfunction

  • Reduce body aches that occur as a side effect of Aromatase Inhibitors

Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine techniques are helpful in making cancer patients more comfortable, as is discussed above, but it doesn’t stop there. They are also extremely useful tools for healing post-surgical scars and scarred tissue formation. Acupuncture helps to relieve the stress and anxiety patients feel when confronted with positive results on genetic screening and the numerous options for preventive surgeries and monitoring. I also feel it is important that those closely caring for family or friends battling cancer come for acupuncture too, as they can also need a lot of extra care.