You may have just been told the news no one wants to hear, “You have cancer.” You can’t help but feel frightened and wonder what lies ahead, yet… you are already a survivor. From the moment of diagnosis, you become a cancer survivor and join the over 12 million cancer survivors in the United States today. Whatever treatment you choose, acupuncture is an excellent option for getting the support you may need in dealing with emotional distress during a cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Acupuncture is a form of ancient Chinese medicine in which fine, sterile needles are applied to specific areas of the body, or “acupoints”, to stimulate energy flow (or “chi”). The needles are usually left in place for a few minutes (skilled acupuncturists cause virtually no pain). Energy is believed to circulate throughout the body along specific pathways called meridians.

When energy is flowing freely through the meridians, the immune system is stimulated, which is thought to bring on a healing response and balance. When the flow of energy is disturbed or off-balance, pain or illness may occur. A goal of acupuncture is to restore balance and healthy energy flow to the body to control pain and other symptoms.

Acupuncture has been used for many years to alleviate symptoms during Chemotherapy.  Symptoms such as appetite changes, hair loss, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, memory loss, and constipation can be helped with acupuncture.  Stress levels can also be decreased with acupuncture.  A recent study conducted by Memorial Sloan Kettering investigators and published in the April 2010 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology sought to determine if acupuncture could reduce pain and dysfunction in individuals with cancer of the head or neck who had received a surgical dissection of lymph nodes in their neck. The study evaluated 58 patients who were suffering from chronic pain or dysfunction as a result of neck dissection. For four weeks, study participants were randomly assigned into one of two groups: those receiving weekly acupuncture sessions and those receiving standard care, which included physical therapy, as well as pain and anti-inflammatory medication.

The study found that individuals in the group receiving acupuncture experienced significant reductions in pain and dysfunction when compared with individuals receiving standard care. Individuals in the acupuncture group also reported significant improvement in xerostomia, a condition in which patients receiving adjuvant radiation therapy experience extreme dry mouth.

If you or a loved one is undergoing chemotherapy, consider trying acupuncture.

In Health,

Dr. Heather Sefried