Addressing Breast Cancer with Alternative Cancer Treatments: Acupuncture, Part 2
Alternative Cancer Treatments: Acupuncture
While modern medicine evolves to more effectively treat breast cancer, unfortunately the side effects of treatments and the disease itself still persist. Options for relief can become increasingly limited with medications, chemo, radiation, and surgery.
Acupuncture has proven to be a very safe, effective, and seamlessly integrative modality, regardless of the types of cancer treatment used. It can prevent and manage side effects from treatment, increase energy, augment treatment itself, and boost the immune system.
Numerous studies have shown that acupuncture is effective for:
- Nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy
- Cancer pain
- Low WBCs and immune deficiency
- Radiation-induced dry mouth
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Swelling or decreased range of motion of arms after lymph nodes have been removed
Fatigue from cancer itself, or the treatments being used, is a very common concern. In fact, fatigue may range from 40-90% during treatment, and 20-40% after, and can be completely debilitating. A study examined women 18-65 years old, who were finished with their primary therapy and free of cancer, without depression or anemia. They received one acupuncture session of 50 minutes or less per week for eight weeks. There was a 66% reduction in fatigue at the end of the eight weeks. Another study in women who received acupuncture after chemotherapy three times per week for just two weeks, and only for twenty minutes demonstrated that there was a significant reduction in general fatigue, physical fatigue, and an increase in activity and motivation. This was also proven to be more effective than acupressure.
When it comes to pain management, opiates and analgesics are often used, but they have many side effects, and decrease quality of life. Acupuncture is free from any such side effects. It has been shown to stimulate tiny muscle fibers and cause them to release chemical messengers that actually decrease pain. It also was shown to modulate the emotional responses to pain. Its incredibly effective at relieving or removing trigger points, normalizing muscle tone, restoring muscle balance, and increasing mobility and function.
In a study of 43 women with early-stage breast cancer taking aromatase inhibitors like Anastrazole or Letrozole, and suffering from joint pain as a result, their pain was decreased by 55% after having acupuncture twice weekly for six weeks, versus only 18% in the control group. In another study of post-menopausal women with joint pain from these medications, their pain was greatly reduced, both in severity and interference into daily life, and stiffness was also greatly decreased. Comparing acupuncture to the 3-Step Administration for Pain (which is aspirin for mild pain, codeine for moderate, and morphine for severe pain), there was a 94% pain reduction in the acupuncture groups versus 87.5% in the 3-Step group, and NO side effects from the treatment!
Other concerns that can be safely and effectively addressed with acupuncture include lymphedema after radiation or surgery and chemotherapy-associated cognitive dysfunction. Lymphedema is very common swelling after lymph node removal or radiation. There is no cure, and existing treatments are only of minor benefit. One study examined women with swelling for six months to five years who received acupuncture twice weekly for four weeks. Interestingly, 44% of the study participants saw at least a 30% decrease in swelling, an increase in lymph flow, and normalized blood flow to the affected area. These women were NOT on any diuretics or drugs to decrease swelling. While acupuncture is currently not recommended in limbs with swelling from lymph node removal, it has been shown to be AS or MORE beneficial than drugs, without any side effects.
One-fifth to one-half of breast cancer patients experience difficulties with memory, concentration, or attention from chemotherapy. Traditional medicine has recognized acupuncture as an effective therapy for a WIDE RANGE of mental-emotional and neurological issues. There are new suggestions that oncologists and physicians should support patient decisions to use acupuncture for these chemo-induced side effects, especially given the lack of proven alternatives.
Acupuncture is proven to be effective for increasing resilience to all forms of traditional and alternative cancer treatments, decreasing the onset and severity of symptoms from treatment, enhancing the bodys ability to fight cancer as well as heal itself, and is oriented to the individual. Treatment is entirely holistic and easily adapted to address the patient as he/she changes. Finally, acupuncture is safe, free from side effects, and does not increase hormonal stimulation. If you are experiencing any of these concerns, please call to discuss how acupuncture can benefit you.
Article contributed by Dr. Michelle Retz