Cancer treatment is a journey for all people with cancer. The road from diagnosis to treatment to
recovery (and possibly relapse) can be one riddled with challenges. The pain of cancer
symptoms, the discomfort of treatment symptoms, and the stress of managing it all while also
being aware of the risk of relapse can be hard for one person to manage. Even with a support
system, managing cancer treatment can be challenging.
Unfortunately, many types of cancer treatments, despite their best efforts, leave people feeling
terrible: fatigue, pain, vomiting, and more can all occur, especially after the more common
treatments like chemotherapy and radiation treatment. So while there’s a need for effective
ways to shrink and eliminate tumors, there’s also a need for treatments to help cancer patients
manage cancer treatment and feel comfortable throughout their journey.
Acupuncture may be an option for cancer patients looking for ways to manage their cancer
treatment. Keep reading to learn more.
What is acupuncture?
A staple in Traditional Chinese Medicine, acupuncture involves the use of needles, inserted into
specific areas of the body, for therapeutic benefit. Often, acupuncture is used to treat a range of
conditions, though the most common conditions include stress reduction and pain management.
How does acupuncture work?
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, everyone has pathways in their body that promote
energy flow throughout the body (called Qi). It’s believed that when these flows are disrupted,
the result can be a range of diseases and adverse health conditions.
The goal of acupuncture is to help restore the flow of this energy to remedy diseases or other
ailments people may be experiencing. In some cases, other types of external stimulation may
be used to target key areas of the body instead of needles. These include heat, pressure, or
friction. The goal is still the same: to stimulate Qi.
How does acupuncture work for cancer?
Unfortunately, no evidence exists showing that acupuncture can work as a cancer treatment or
prevention tool in the way that chemotherapy or radiation treatment might?
However, research has examined the use of acupuncture as a type of complementary cancer
therapy. The goal of complementary therapy is to help people receiving cancer treatment
manage the symptoms from both their cancer and the treatments they are receiving.
Is acupuncture effective for cancer treatment?
As a tool to destroy cancer cells and shrink tumors, acupuncture is not an option. When it
comes to managing the effects of cancer and subsequent treatments, however, acupuncture
has shown to have much more benefit and potential. In fact, more and more clinics are starting
to offer acupuncture services.
Here are a few benefits acupuncture has for cancer patients, according to research.
- Reducing chemotherapy nausea and vomiting. One study of breast cancer patients
found that electroacupuncture was more effective than traditional acupuncture in
reducing chemotherapy-related vomiting. Electroacupuncture refers to the practice of
sending small electrical signals through acupuncture needles.
- Minimizing other chemotherapy and radiation-related symptoms. One large study of
breast cancer patients found that acupuncture helped reduce a range of treatment
symptoms, such as pain, hot flashes, and dry mouth.
- Reducing stress and anxiety. Cancer is stressful, which can make life even harder for
patients undergoing treatment. Fortunately, one study found that acupuncture could
actually help with stress . The study found that after surgery for breast cancer patients,
acupuncture could be a good way to decrease anxiety, tension, pain, and improve
Is cancer treatment safe?
Acupuncture is safe. However, it’s important to find a provider who is specially trained to provide
acupuncture treatment. Acupuncture needles are actually regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration, which means they have to follow certain guidelines for storage and cleanliness.
Acupuncture provided by a non-licensed provider may not be sanitary.
With any type of cancer treatment, it’s important to make sure you fully understand the available
treatment options and choose options that work for you. This should include talking to your
doctor before starting any cancer treatment. They can help you decide which treatment options
are right for you.