I have been treating cancer patients for 15 years and completed my training for the care of the cancer patient at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. All treatments are highly customized based on each patient’s individual needs. Dietary and lifestyle modifications are typically integrated into treatment strategies. From a western biomedical point of view, acupuncture influences a number of physiological functions such as the release of endorphins. Endorphins are the body’s natural pain killing chemicals. Acupuncture can also help with the restoration of proper circulation in diseased areas, stimulate hormonal glands and improve immune system function. A clinical study conducted Columbia University concluded that 80% of women who had breast cancer and were receiving acupuncture for joint pain and stiffness resulting from aromatase inhibitor treatments reported at least a 2-point improvement on a 10-point pain scale. The bottom line is: most studies conclude that for many patients, treatment with acupuncture either relieves symptoms or keeps them from getting worse.
I only use sterile, disposable, stainless steel needles that are slightly thicker than a human hair. The inserted needles may be twirled, moved up and down at different speeds and depths, heated, or charged with a weak electric current. Some patients feel a slight Qi sensation when the needle is inserted: most feel nothing at all. These Qi sensations range from warmth or tingling, to a brief ache or heaviness in the area being needled. Qi sensations are generally fleeting and only felt on one or two of the acupuncture points. Many patients find acupuncture so relaxing that they fall asleep during treatment due to the endorphins released during therapy.
However, I understand that after all you’ve endured and are still enduring to become cancer free, you may not relish the idea of one more needle going into your body. There are other modalities I can utilize to effectively treat you. Cold laser is one such therapy that is painless, non invasive and effective for the treatment of the side effects from chemotherapy, radiation and aromatase inhibitor therapy. There is no risk of infection or inflammation. In its landmark, 1997 Consensus Statement on Acupuncture, the NIH (National Institutes of Health) reported, “One of the advantages of acupuncture is that the incidence of adverse effects is substantially lower than that of many drugs or other accepted medical procedures used for the same conditions.” Because the treatments are so deeply relaxing, many patients find regular, maintenance treatments beneficial for stress relief.
How many treatments are necessary? Generally patients are seen on a weekly basis. For some acute conditions, it may be necessary to come twice a week for the first two to three weeks, until symptoms are contained. Some patients will notice improvement after a single treatment. Most patients begin noticing changes within one to three treatments. As the condition improves, visits are spaced farther apart: every two, and later, three weeks or monthly. During a round of chemo or radiation therapy, an effective protocol is a treatment the day before chemo or radiation therapy and a treatment 1 or 2 days afterward to strengthen the immune system and relieve the symptoms of the chemotherapy and radiation. Once a patient is given a clean bill of health by their oncologist, many survivors choose to continue treatment for maintenance and preventative care. These maintenance visits can be monthly or quarterly, or semi-annually, depending on the patient’s goals.
Cancer-related symptoms that acupuncture can treat are:
- Weight Loss
- Cough and chest pain
- Dry mouth, metallic taste, and speech problems
- Anxiety and depression
- Fluid accumulation in the arms or legs
- Neuropathies resulting from chemotherapy
- Night sweats and hot flashes
- Improve the immune system & alleviate joint pain.