Cancer can affect anyone. According to the National Cancer Registry of Ireland (NCRI):
- One in three people in Ireland will develop cancer during their lifetime.
- In Ireland an average of 30,000 new cases of cancer are diagnosed each year.
The number is expected to rise to over 40,000 per year by 2020.
- 29,775 people were diagnosed with cancer in 2009, 15,364 men and 14,441 women
If you or one of your loved ones suffer from cancer chances are you’ve tried lots of different therapies and approaches to relieve its symptoms. In the Western world acupuncture doesn’t automatically come to mind as a complementary treatment for cancer. That’s a pity since its effectiveness in treating various cancer symptoms has been proven and cancer acupuncture can help to control:
- Nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy
- Immune system
- Anxiety and mood swings, depression
- Dry, painful mouth and throat; poor appetite
- Hot flashes
- Nerve problems
- Constipation and diarrhea
- Failure of gastrointestinal (GI) muscles to move food through the GI tract following surgery
During the years of my clinical experience I found cancer acupuncture to be very effective for side effects of chemotherapy, such as: vomiting, nausea, fatigue and sleeping disorders. Acupuncture also can reduce cancer pain, improve sleeping, boost the immune system, help with hot flashes and relax the patients who are suffering from cancer-related anxiety and depression.
Research into cancer acupuncture
Cancer acupuncture is very effective in managing pain related to tumours, surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and inflammation. Cancer itself is a painful disease and the treatments for cancer cause pain, swelling and inflammation. Also, many of the treatments for the management of cancer pain cause side effects like: nausea, constipation, confusion, difficulty urinating and respiratory depression. Patients who receive acupuncture may be able to use lower doses of their medications for pain.
Tiredness after chemotherapy can sometimes last for years. It is difficult to manage and has a big effect on patient’s lives.
UK trial from 2007 showed that acupuncture and acupressure treatments helped people to feel less tired, reduced physical tiredness and improved activity.
At the end of the treatments, the acupuncture group had a 36% improvement in fatigue levels, while the acupressure group improved by 19% and the sham acupressure by 0.6%.
The ACU.FATIGUE trial from 2012 looked into women suffering from severe fatigue after chemotherapy for breast cancer. Patients received acupuncture treatment once per week for six weeks. The study has shown that acupuncture helped to reduce fatigue and improved the womens’ quality of life.
Nausea and Vomiting
Cancer acupuncture trials done in 2013 found that acupuncture can help to reduce the intensity and frequency of nausea and vomiting in cancer patients receiving chemotherapy.
A study from 2011 demonstrated a piece of evidence that acupuncture may help to relieve breathlessness due to advanced cancer or its treatment.
Immune System Modulation
Many cancers and many cancer treatments cause a suppression of the bone marrow, the source of blood cells that play a vital role within the immune system. Acupuncture increases blood cell production and enhances Natural Killer Cells and Lymphocytes which leads to increased immune response and decreased risk of infection. Human studies suggest that acupuncture may improve immune response.
Cancer causes increased inflammation. Many treatments for cancer such as surgery , chemotherapy and radiation therapy also cause painful inflammation. Acupuncture reduces the pain and swelling related to inflammation.
Cancer patients suffer sleep disruption and insomnia due to physical pain, post-surgical discomfort, anxiety and depression. Acupuncture relieves these symptoms and allows cancer patient to get a deep sleep and rest required for recovery and healing.
Dry, Painful Mouth and Throat
Head and neck radiation causes a reduction in saliva production and cancer patients experience dry mouth due to it. Radiation treatments also lead to pain and swelling in the mouth and throat making it very difficult to swallow. Patients often lose their sense of taste as well. Acupuncture has been shown to decrease these side effects. It allows the patient to be able to swallow, eat and drink normally, protects the health of the teeth and gums and reduces the incidence of pain, swelling and infections in the mouth and throat during radiation therapy.
Many women suffering from Breast Cancer undergo hormonal treatment and experience hot flashes which disrupt their sleep and daily activities. Acupuncture has been proven to decrease the frequency and intensity of hot flashes for breast cancer patients.
Men with prostate cancer also experience hot flashes during hormonal treatment and can benefit from acupuncture.
A 2005 study among patients with breast or prostate cancer showed that acupuncture or self-acupuncture reduced hot flashes by 50% or more in nearly 8 out of 10 people. Several smaller studies also support this finding, including a Swedish study from 2006, which found that as well as reducing the number and intensity of the hot flashes, women who had acupuncture felt better psychologically.
This is swelling caused by a build-up of lymph fluid in the body. It can be a side effect of surgery or radiotherapy. Lymphoedema can cause discomfort, pain and difficulty moving. There is no cure for lymphoedema, but acupuncture can relieve symptoms.
How cancer acupuncture works
Any chronic disease depletes the energy levels in the organism. Such depletion can be ameliorated, at least temporarily, by tonification, a process of imparting energy into the system. This is deemed necessary for more durable, successful pain control. It can also add to the patients’ sense of well-being and decrease the unease associated with cancer.
Energetic acupuncture repletes energy levels to the organism as a whole, reestablishes homeostasis by re-balancing energy distribution and unblocking energy flow. Meridian acupuncture can also be used. It directs healing energy to a specific organ of pathology. It’s a routine approach in treating diseased organs such as liver, pancreas kidney, including those ravaged by cancers.
Cancer acupuncture improves overall quality of life
By managing the side effects of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and hormonal therapies, reducing pain and inflammation, supporting normal digestive function, improving sleep and reducing stress the quality of life of cancer patients is improved by acupuncture treatments.
Combining acupuncture with counselling for cancer
Acupuncture can help in easing physical symptoms, as well as in reducing emotional distress. Through acupuncture, my clients notice their physical symptoms are gradually reducing, which helps them to be able to connect with their feelings on a deeper level in order to release blocked energy.
Through an integrated acupuncture-counselling therapy, blocked emotional energy release happens through acupuncture alongside talking therapy. My patients are guided through easy breathing relaxation during acupuncture treatment, which leads to excellent results as a holistic body and mind treatment.