Acupuncture is endorsed by the American Cancer Society for the treatment of cancer-related symptoms and is incorporated into a substantial number of major cancer centers across the country.
Role of Acupuncture in Integrative Oncology
The role of acupuncture is best described by Gordon and Curtis (2000) in Comprehensive Cancer Care:
The traditional Chinese medicinal treatment of cancer is based on the principle of fu zheng gu ben. Roughly speaking, fu zheng means strengthening what is correct, the qi, the forces in the body regulating normal healthy development. Gu ben refers to strengthening and enhancing the processes of regeneration and repair, which Chinese medicine locates in the kidney. Traditional treatment includes removing toxins that may contribute to cancer, increasing the flow of blood and qi, removing undesirable accumulations of tissue that are the tumor, and restoring self-regulation and balance among the jing, shen, and qi. The means that are used – acupuncture, tai chi, qi gong, tui na, and counseling – are each designed to further one or more aspects of this process.
Benefits of Acupuncture for Cancer Patients:
- Decreased side effects from cancer treatment
- Better compliance with oncologists’ treatment strategy
- Decreased cancer symptoms
- Improved functionality
- Improved attitude/perspective
- Lifestyle adjustments proven to lower the chance of recurrence
- Shift toward wellbeing (the ultimate goal in healthcare)
Acupuncture’s Effectiveness for Specific Cancer-Related Symptoms:
- Common: nausea, vomiting, fatigue, neuropathy, tumor pain, postoperative pain, poor mobility, anxiety, hot flashes, constipation, “chemo fog”
- Breast Cancer: nausea, vomiting, hot flashes, joint pain, fatigue
- Lung Cancer: shortness of breath, fatigue, edema
- Colorectal Cancer: gastrointestinal (GI) discomfort, bloating, peripheral neuropathy
- Prostate Cancer: urinary retention, erectile dysfunction, testicular pain
- Throat Cancer: neck pain, tightness, poor range of motion, difficulty swallowing, dry mouth
Risks of Acupuncture for Cancer Patients
The biggest concern when considering complementary therapy is the involved risk. At Midwest Specialty Acupuncture, we adhere to safety guidelines established at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center for acupuncture therapy alongside surgical, chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Developed for over a decade by a dedicated group of staff acupuncturists, oncologists and cancer researchers, you can be assured that we hold the highest standards of safe complementary cancer care. The following can help you decide if acupuncture is right for you. Please contact us with any questions you may have.
- Infection- limited risk due to sterilization practices and incredible safety record of acupuncture. Contraindicated during postoperative fever or for three months post bone marrow transplant.
- Localized treatment at surgical site, tumor, skin lesion, lymphedema, mediport- The holistic nature of acupuncture provides many treatment options away from the primary site.
- Thrombocytopenia/ poor clotting- common effect of cancer treatment not normally contraindicated. Please provide all exams to verify counts before treatment.
- Neutropenia/ poor immunity- common effect of cancer treatment not normally contraindicated. Please provide all exams to verify counts before treatment.
Timing of treatment
With the understanding that you have a full schedule of treatment and recovery, we time treatment to optimize the benefits of acupuncture while limiting risk. Treatments will be scheduled on an individualized basis and adjusted as needed. The following is only a template to offer you and your oncologists a glimpse of our strategy.
- Chemotherapy: weekly treatment before, 1-2 days pre-cycle, once during off weeks
- Radiation: 1-2 per week during cycle
- Surgery: 2 days preoperative, postoperative when mobile
Josh Eha, L.Ac, C.SMA is certified in “Acupuncture for the Cancer Patient” by the integrative oncology department of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. For the last decade, he has treated cancer patients at Scripps Center of Integrative Medicine in La Jolla, California and in private practice. Do not hesitate to use the contact form for any questions you may have prior to treatment.