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Acupuncture for side effects of cancer treatment

Posted on 14 April, 2011 at 9:28
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture began more than 3,000 years ago and is an important part of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Acupuncture involves the placement of very slender needles into the skin along predetermined points for therapeutic effect.

How does it work?
In Chinese medicine, it's believed that acupuncture works by unblocking the flow of energy along channels, or "meridians". The theory behind acupuncture is that when the body's energy channels are blocked, discomfort results.

Benefits of Acupuncture
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year more than 8 million Americans use acupuncture to treat different ailments. Studies have demonstrated its effectiveness in the treatment of a host of non-cancer-related health issues, such as back pain, chronic headaches, osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, infertility, and hot flashes. Acupuncture is also safe, tolerable and effective for a range of side-effects resulting from conventional cancer treatments (Current Treat Options Oncology, December 2010).

Relief of cancer pain
Forty percent of individuals with early or intermediate stage cancer and 90% with advanced cancer have moderate to severe pain, and acupuncture has a role in management of cancer pain. A recent study, published in Journal of Clinical Oncology, April 2010, found that individuals receiving acupuncture experienced significant reductions in pain and dysfunction when compared with individuals receiving standard care.

Easing chemo-radiation therapy side-effects
The preliminary data suggest acupuncture might be effective for chemotherapy-induced nausea, vomiting, fatigue, pain, leukopenia, radiation therapy-induced xerostomia, insomnia, and anxiety. A recent study reported acupuncture reduces some of these common side effects and produces fewer adverse effects than antidepressant, venlafaxine (Journal of Clinical Oncology, February 2010). Another trial also suggested that acupuncture reduces vasomotor symptoms in breast cancer patients treated with adjuvant tamoxifen (Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, December 2010).

Increasing Quality of Life
Acupuncture can increased energy and provide a sense of well being to cancer sufferers.  A study, (International Journal Women’s Health, September 2010), was to examine the quality of life of breast cancer patients medicated with estrogen antagonists, 2 years after having acupuncture treatment for hot flashes. Patients treated with acupuncture complained less of hot flashes, and had a more positive outlook on life.

Safety of Acupuncture
Although acupuncture is generally considered safe, it may cause dizziness, local internal bleeding, dermatitis, nerve damage, and/or increased pain (especially when the acupuncturist is not well-trained). A well-trained professional acupuncturist is very important for a better treatment result.

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