ACUPUNCTURE AND ONCOLOGY

A frequently asked question by patients undergoing cancer treatment is, "Can acupuncture help me?"  The role of acupuncture in cancer treatment is it's ability in aiding recovery from post-operative pain control and recovery from the side effects of chemotherapy.

  • Studies of the effect of acupuncture on nausea and vomiting caused by cancer therapies.

The strongest evidence of the effect of acupuncture has come from clinical trials on the use of acupuncture to relieve nausea and vomiting. Several types of clinical trials using different acupuncture methods showed acupuncture reduced nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy,surgery, and morning sickness. It appears to be more effective in preventing vomiting than in reducing nausea.

  • Studies of the effect of acupuncture on hot flashes in patients treated for cancer

Hormone therapy may cause hot flashes in women with breast cancer and men with prostate cancer. Some studies have shown that acupuncture may be effective in relieving hot flashes in these patients.

  • Studies of the effect of acupuncture on muscle and joint pain from aromatase inhibitors

Aromatase inhibitors, a type of hormone therapy for postmenopausal women who have hormone-dependent breast cancer, may cause muscle and joint pain. A randomized study found that true acupuncture was much more effective in relieving joint pain and stiffness than sham (inactive) acupuncture in patients taking aromatase inhibitors.

  • Study of the effect of acupuncture on fatigue in patients treated for cancer

Randomized studies of patients with cancer-related fatigue found that those who had a series of acupuncture treatments had less fatigue compared to those who had acupressure, sham acupressure, or information about managing fatigue.

  • Studies of the effect of acupuncture on xerostomia (dry mouth) in patients treated for cancer

Clinical trials have been done to study the effect of acupuncture in the treatment and prevention of xerostomia (dry mouth) caused by radiation therapy given to patients with nasopharyngeal carcinoma and head and neck cancer.

Two studies compared acupuncture with standard care for preventing xerostomia in patients being treated with radiation therapy. The studies found that patients treated with acupuncture had fewer symptoms and increased saliva flow.

Compared to standard care, acupuncture markedly improves xerostomia symptoms in patients who have xerostomia after treatment with radiation therapy.

While the degree of beneficial results from acupuncture treatment is dependent on various clinical factors such as presenting symptoms, clinical staging, timing of the encounter in the course of the illness, areas of involvement, the answer to the opening question "can acupuncture help me?" is, in all probability, that it can help in the care of the cancer patient.