Cancer treatment success rates are increasing due to advancements in cancer treatment. However, the treatments themselves are still very taxing to the body. Acupuncture for cancer support is a wonderful complementary option to help lessen the side-effects, alleviate pain and strengthen the body.
Dr. Dawn Potter holds a certificate from Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in acupuncture for cancer support. She uses acupuncture, nutrition and Chinese herbs (when appropriate) to support health, ease the symptoms associated with cancer and moderate the side-effects of cancer treatments.
She is not alone; many well known elite cancer care facilities such as Moffitt Cancer Center, Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, MD Anderson Cancer Hospital and the Naval Medical Center (San Diego) include acupuncture for cancer support for those who undergo surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
Dr. Dawn Potter does not treat cancer per se, but instead offers supportive, complementary treatment.
Acupuncture for cancer support – nausea & vomiting:
Nausea, vomiting and poor appetite are common side effects of chemotherapy. Even with the best anti-nausea medications, 60% of chemotherapy patients still experience nausea and vomiting. Acupuncture for cancer support has been found by many research studies to greatly reduce chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting. In fact, the National Institute of Health endorses its use. For example, in England, a study of 130 cancer patients found that when acupuncture was added, 97% had reduced or no sickness after chemotherapy. Numerous other studies support the same findings.
Acupuncture for cancer support – pain:
Because Acupuncture and Chinese herbs enhance the circulation of energy and blood through the body, it can decrease the swelling and pain of surgery, and the pain of cancer itself. To illustrate, in 2005, the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association reported on several studies. In one, the majority of 250 patients with gynecologic cancer had enhanced pain relief when acupuncture was administered as an adjunct to anesthesia. Another study found substantial pain reduction in patients receiving ear acupuncture. Other side-effects found to be improved with acupuncture include muscle spasms, bladder spasms and vascular problems.
Acupuncture for cancer support – increased immunity & energy:
Acupuncture for cancer support helps build the immune system and increase the rate of healing, as well as boost energy levels. It is ideal to use during cancer treatment (to reduce side-effects), before treatment (to help prepare the body) and after treatment (to rebuild strength). In a study done at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, acupuncture was shown to reduce post-chemotherapy fatigue by 31%.
It is advised to not take Chinese herbal medicine during chemotherapy treatment, to avoid possible interactions.
However, it is quite helpful to take individually-prescribed Chinese herbal formulas before chemo has begun, and after it is complete. Several studies reviewed in Acupuncture Today show that combining Chinese herbal formulas with conventional therapies leads to better treatment results, with fewer hemoglobin changes, higher white blood cell counts, and lower recurrence rates than conventional therapy alone.
Acupuncture for other chemotherapy–related problems:
Acupuncture for cancer support can help with a host of other chemotherapy related problems. Researchers at UCLA recommend that physicians support their patients’ decision to use acupuncture for chemotherapy-associated cognitive dysfunction, because there is evidence that acupuncture can assist a variety of psycho-neurological issues.
Acupuncture is also useful to treat patients with radiation-induced xerostomia (lack of salivation), as well as patients with shortness of breath, depressed mood, leg swelling due to removal of lymph nodes, and menopausal symptoms due to anti-estrogen therapy. Acupuncture also improves arm mobility following lymph node removal from the chest area.
In her own clinic, Dawn has also used acupuncture to alleviate dizziness after radiation therapy, scar tissue pain from cancer surgery, peripheral neuropathy resulting from chemotherapy, depression and anxiety, as well as the usual nausea and fatigue.
A welcome added effect of acupuncture/acupressure is the deep sense of relaxation and wellbeing that are often experienced from the treatments; they can greatly increase a cancer patient’s quality of life.
(*Note: if you would like to see the sources and references for this article, please visit the associated blog post about acupuncture for cancer care.)