Relevant Questions Related To Acupuncture and Cancer And Cancer Therapies

New studies show that the ancient Chinese form of healing known as acupuncture works as good, or sometimes, even better than Western modern medicine in relieving the side effects of breast cancer therapies. The studies indicate that acupuncture, which has been around for tens of hundreds of years, can provide cancer patients lots of much-needed relief.

To be clear, we need to understand that acupuncture does not cure cancer, but it can relieve many of the symptoms related to this disease. It’s worth trying and after two or three sessions, your symptoms do not get better, you can discontinue the treatment without suffering any adverse withdrawal effects.

If you don’t know what to tell your acupuncturist, no need to worry. All you need to do is just explain to him or her about your problem. Your acupuncturist will know what to do. In order to have a successful and safe treatment, it is important that you seek out a licensed and qualified acupuncturist who has experience treating your condition. If you are looking for a practitioner who has experience treating cancer related symptoms and the side effects of cancer treatments, here are some helpful tips to follow:

First, you can go online and go to the website of NCCAOM (National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine). It can help you find qualified and certified acupuncturists near your area. Medical doctors who also have a license to practice acupuncture generally note this by adding “LAc” after their MD title. Presently, there is no system credentialing acupuncturists trained in oncology. You may also be able to talk to some oncologists who know acupuncturists who specialize in treating patients with cancer.

As mentioned just a short while ago, you need to choose an acupuncturist who is licensed or certified. Plus, the acupuncturist must have experience or training working with people with cancer. Training and certification for certified acupuncturists is actually offered by the integrative medicine department of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Some important integrative medicine centers may also provide similar training.

Can any acupuncturist treat cancer patients?

You need experience and knowledge in treating cancer patients. You need an acupuncturist who is knowledgeable with cancer diagnoses and the associated implications for acupuncture therapy. The acupuncturist should also be familiar with conventional cancer therapies (radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and surgery), the precautions that should be taken, and the therapies’ side effects.

How many sessions do you need in order to decide whether acupuncture works for you or not?

The number of sessions may vary based on the patient’s condition and symptoms. There are patients who may only need a single or a couple of sessions to obtain significant relief. But for hot flashes and other symptoms, you may need to undergo 10 – 20 sessions to get maximal benefits. It seems that acupuncture’s positive effects are cumulative.

Potentially anyone can try acupuncture. It may not be a proper modality for people who have a condition that makes them easily bleed or get infected. It may not be for pregnant women or people suffering from lymphedema. Acupuncture has minimal risks and the needles used for treatment are sterilized and used only once.

What are the uses of acupuncture?

When it comes to cancer symptoms and the side effects of cancer therapies, acupuncture can be very beneficial for cancer patients suffering from fatigue, pain, and nausea and vomiting induced by chemotherapy and post-surgery,. Recent research shows acupuncture’s ability to relieve musculoskeletal dysfunction and pain (usually suffered by neck and head cancer patients) and lessen extreme dry mouth (xerostomia) following radiation therapy. Acupuncture has also shown to help alleviate neuropathic pain related to nerve damage or to certain forms of chemotherapy.

How long does an acupuncture procedure last?

Typically, a session of acupuncture lasts for about 20 to 45 minutes. During your initial visit though, an extra 30 minutes may be needed. Your acupuncturist will ask you a series of questions related to your condition. Then, he or she will perform a physical examination on you. During the treatment itself, 10 to 20 single use and sterile needles will be inserted into selected acupoints in your body. To augment the therapeutic effects, your acupuncturist may manipulate the needles. During and after the session, most people report a feeling of relaxation and a calm mind.

Do acupuncture needles cause pain?

The needles used in acupuncture are made of stainless steel. These needles are a lot thinner than the ones used in hospitals. Acupuncture needles do not cause pain when inserted into your body. During treatment, if any soreness any discomfort is felt, your practitioner can alter the needle’s position to eliminate the discomfort.

What are the side effects of acupuncture?

Side effects from acupuncture are very rare but if they occur, they involve irritation, minor bleeding, and bruises at the site of insertion.

Are the typical hot flashes of menopause similar to the hot flashes side effect of chemotherapy?

You acupuncturist will devise a specific treatment plan based on your symptoms. The cause of the hot flashes induced by chemotherapy is not the same as the hot flashes related to menopause. For each cause, different acupoints may be used.

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Acupuncture Treatment for the Relief of Cancer Symptoms and Chemotherapy-Induced Symptoms

New statistics from a controlled randomized trial have shown that following neck dissection, acupuncture led to significant relief of dry mouth, dysfunction, and pain in neck and head cancer patients. This trial was headed by the Chief of the Integrative Medicine Service, at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC), Barrie Cassileth, PhD and the Chief of the Head and Neck Medical Oncology Service, David Pfister, MD.

For neck and head cancer patients, neck dissection is a common procedure. This procedure has several forms that vary based on the anticipated side effects and the structures that are removed. One form is radical neck dissection, which is the total extraction of lymph nodes from one side of the neck.

Dr Pfister states that “shoulder mobility and chronic pain problems are commonly felt after neck surgery, which negatively impacts quality of life and employability for certain professions. Modified radical procedures such as nerve-sparing help preserve certain structures without affecting disease control and lessen the occurrence of these problems although they are not able to completely eradicate them” .“ Western methods for dysfunction and pain treatment following neck surgery, unfortunately usually provide limited benefits,” adds Dr Pfister.

The above mentioned trial had 70 patients participating who were randomly assigned treatment that included acupuncture or conventional care (which meant anti-inflammatory medications and physical therapy). All patients had their last radiation or surgery treatments at least three months before the start of the trial. The group who received treatment was given four treatments of acupuncture treatment group for about four weeks. Both the acupuncture and conventional care groups were examined using the Constant-Murley scale, which is a measurement of the activities of daily living, function, and pain.

Mobility improved and pain lessened in 39% of the subjects who were treated with acupuncture, compared to only 7% in the conventional care group. Also, the acupuncture group received an extra benefit which was a decrease in severe dry mouth condition or xerostomia, which was a distressing and common problem among cancer sufferers after head and neck radiotherapy. The usual care group experienced none of that.

As with all other treatments, acupuncture, unfortunately, is not for everyone but to those who find it helpful, it can be a great way to treat certain conditions said Dr. Cassileth. He added that “Acupuncture may not treat illness, but it has the ability to control numerous painful and uncomfortable symptoms, such as osteoarthritis, neuropathy, pain, chronic fatigue, depression, anxiety, and shortness of breath.”

She recommends that “cancer sufferers should seek treatment only from licensed acupuncturists who are accredited by the national organization known as the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine or NCCAOM. These practitioners should also have training or experience in handling the problems and symptoms caused by cancer and the therapies for it.”

A vital branch of TCM or Traditional Chinese Medicine in Portland, acupuncture was developed in China over 2,000 years ago. This healing modality involves the activation by needles, pressure, heat, or electricity of a single or multiple predetermined acupoints on the body to produce a therapeutic effect. More than 8 million Americans are reported to avail of acupuncture treatments for the treatment of different conditions each year, according to the CDC or the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

One of the most recently discovered uses of acupuncture is its use as a palliative care for cancer symptoms such as chronic fatigue and cancer pain as well as for the relief of postoperative chemotherapy-induced symptoms such as vomiting and nausea.

More and more oncologists are recommending acupuncture for their cancer patients not only for the relief of nausea and pain but also to build the health of the blood and to release stagnant energy.