Acupuncture and Chemotherapy: Treating the Side Effects of Cancer Therapy
Thanks to its effectiveness at killing cancer cells, chemotherapy is one of the more common cancer treatments.
Unfortunately, it also carries an impressive list of possible side effects, including nausea, vomiting (also known as emesis), neuropathy (persistent tingling in the extremities, similar to the feeling when a body part “falls asleep”), fatigue, pain, and hot flashes.
Potential side effects depend on a number of factors, including which chemotherapy drug is used, the dosage, the type of cancer being treated, and the patient’s unique reactions to the drug. For example, some patients never experience a moment of neuropathy, while for others, neuropathy lasts long after the chemo does its job and the patient goes into remission or is cured.
The Power of Acupuncture
For thousands of years, millions of people have relied on acupuncture to treat a wide variety of health issues.
Acupuncture ensures the proper flow of Qi, the energy force of the human body. What Eastern philosophy calls Qi, Western medicine considers the normal chemical reactions that occur within the body, typically treating illness with medications. In Eastern medicine, it is believed that Qi flows along pathways called meridians. Interruptions of this flow are what cause illness in the body or mind. If you restore the flow, health follows.
Hair-thin, stainless steel needles inserted at the proper meridian points restore Qi. Your acupuncturist determines which points require treatment according to your symptoms. For cancer sufferers, this means treatments designed to combat pain, nausea, vomiting, neuropathy, and other side effects of treatment.
The Medical Community’s Growing Acceptance of Acupuncture
For the past 20 years, the medical community’s acceptance of acupuncture as viable and effective has grown enormously. You can date the change to 1996, when the FDA approved acupuncture needles as a medical device.
Since that time, numerous groups have conducted research into acupuncture’s efficacy in treating cancer patients. Studies include treatments via manual acupuncture, electroacupuncture, moxibustion, cupping, and acupressure.
The National Cancer Institute provides readers an in-depth review of the history of acupuncture and its use in treating the side effects of chemotherapy. According to the NCI, the intention in utilizing these treatments is improving the patient’s quality of life while the patient undergoes treatment.
Breastcancer.org references numerous studies on the efficacy of acupuncture, starting with a 2000 study of 104 breast cancer patients. The women in the study received anti-nausea medication, with a random sampling also receiving acupuncture. The acupuncture group experienced significantly fewer nauseous episodes.
A 2004 study from Duke University comparing acupuncture-only treatment to drug-only treatment discovered that patients receiving only acupuncture treatment suffered less nausea than those receiving medication.
A pain study in France revealed that patients suffering from cancer-related pain experienced a 36 percent pain reduction. The control group’s pain reduction was only 2 percent.
Acupuncture to Treat Chemo-Induced Nausea and Vomiting
Researchers studied hundreds of patients for over two decades to determine the best alternative therapies for patients experiencing nausea and vomiting after chemo treatments. Findings indicate that electroacupuncture is the most effective form of acupuncture, likely due to its consistent, steady manipulation of needles once said needles are placed. A close second is manual acupuncture, thought to only lag behind due to how much easier it is to manipulate the needles electrically.
Patients receiving acupuncture experienced significantly reduced nausea and emesis, especially if they participated in regular acupuncture sessions. Researchers recommend two acupuncture points as being the most effective at handling the nausea and vomiting side effects of chemotherapy. P6, also known as the neiguan, is found on the wrist. ST36, also known as the zuslani, is on the leg, near the tibia.
Studies like these have helped inspire many health insurers to cover acupuncture. If you’d like to learn more about acupuncture, and determine whether your insurance covers treatment, contact Accurate Acupuncture today.