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Acupuncture can relieve cancer treatment side effects

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States and it is expected that there will be 1.7 million new cancer cases diagnosed in 2018. Nationally, the expenditure for cancer care is expected to reach $156 billion by the year 2020.

What is Cancer?

Cancer is a group of diseases characterized by uncontrolled cell growth and if this growth is not stopped, it can interfere with vital life functions and lead to death. Thankfully today, cancer is not necessarily a death sentence as there are hundreds of thousands of survivors each year. It is estimated that 15.5 million Americans have a history of cancer and were still living in 2016.

What are Common Cancer Treatment Symptoms?

Although we see that cancer can be a treatable condition, the typical patient will experience a wide variety of side effects as a result of the cancer itself and even the treatment. Currently, the main western medical treatment for cancer consists of chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, Immunotherapy, and Hormone Therapy. Taking a closer look at chemotherapy, there are many different types of chemotherapy agents which are chosen based on the type of cancer the patient has. 

Chemotherapy tends to target fast growing cells in the body, such as cancer cells but normal cells in the body will be affected as well. The normal cells most likely to be affected are blood cells/blood forming cells, hair follicles, and the cells of the mouth, digestive tract and reproductive system. With chemotherapy treatments, side effects can vary and not every person experiences every side effect. In general, side effects of chemotherapy may include the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Hair loss
  • Easy bruising and bleeding
  • Infection
  • Anemia (low red blood cell counts)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Appetite changes
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Mouth, tongue, and throat problems such as sores and pain with swallowing
  • Nerve and muscle problems such as numbness, tingling, and pain
  • Skin and nail changes such as dry skin and color change
  • Urine and bladder changes and kidney problems
  • Weight changes
  • Chemo brain, which can affect concentration and focus
  • Mood changes
  • Changes in libido and sexual function
  • Fertility problems

Seeking Alternative Remedies for Cancer Treatment Side Effects

Many side effects may go away after ending chemotherapy, some immediately, some may take months or years to resolve while others may be more permanent.  Due to this information, many patients and professionals have sought options for reducing side effects associated with western medical treatment which may include pharmaceuticals but more recently, more holistic or natural modalities of care are being utilized, including acupuncture.

How Acupuncture Treats Cancer Treatment Side Effects

Acupuncture is a form of medical treatment that has been around for thousands of years and has a host of benefits when utilized such as boosting immune system function and activating the release of the body’s natural pain killers. Because of acupuncture’s effectiveness in relieving many of the symptoms experienced by patients battling cancer and going through western medical treatments such as chemotherapy, many hospitals have started to employ acupuncturists for the management of certain side effects, especially nausea/vomiting and chemotherapy induced neuropathy. The National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health indicated acupuncture to be effective in relieving the following symptoms:

  • Pain
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy
  • Weight loss
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Poor appetite
  • Dry mouth
  • Hot flashes
  • Nerve problems such as Neuropathy (often caused by chemotherapy agents)
  • Constipation and diarrhea
  • Failure of gastrointestinal (GI) muscles to move food through the GI tract following surgery

If you or a loved one is going through treatment for cancer and experiencing side effects, I would encourage you to consult with a Licensed Acupuncture Physician to learn more about how acupuncture can help.

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