Acupuncture Can Reduce Side Effects of Cancer Treatments

Millions of patients undergo chemotherapy as part of their cancer treatment.  Chemotherapy uses very powerful drugs in an attempt to kill cancer cells but has many negative side effects.  Among these are nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, fatigue, anemia, body ache, headache, night sweats, stomach cramps and diarrhea.

Women undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer have found that acupuncture can be effective in managing such common side effects as hot flashes, night sweats, and excessive sweating.  Compared to conventional drug therapy, acupuncture produces no side effects, according to a study presented in 2008 at the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology’s 50th Annual Meeting in Boston.

Unfortunately, many women suffer from hot flashes after being treated with chemotherapy and/or anti-estrogen hormones, such as Tamoxifen and Arimidex.  Hormone replacement therapy is often used to relieve hot flashes, but breast cancer patients can’t avail themselves of this therapy due to an increased risk of a cancer’s return. This leaves many women with the unpleasant alternative of being treated with steroids and/or antidepressant drugs.  These drugs have undesirable side effects, such as nausea, weight gain, constipation and fatigue. One of the most common drugs used to treat hot flashes, an antidepressant known as venlafaxine (Effexor), is known to have side effects-including decreased libido, insomnia, dizziness and nausea.

A randomized clinical trial compared acupuncture to venlafaxine for 12 weeks to determine which was more effective in reducing night sweats, hot flashes, and sweating in breast cancer patients receiving hormonal therapy. The study involved 47 patients who received either Tamoxifen or Arimidex and suffered from at least 14 hot flashes per week. The results were quite promising and showed that acupuncture reduced hot flashes as effectively as venlafaxine, with no side effects.

Acupuncture also offers a number of positive benefits, including an increased sense of well-being, more energy, and in some cases, a stronger sex drive. Breast cancer survivors enjoy these benefits with a drug-free therapy that has no side effects.  These benefits last longer than many drugs commonly used to treat night sweats.  Acupuncture uses thin, sterile needles inserted in specific points on your body to redirect energy through key channels (or meridians).  During the procedure, you may experience a brief discomfort as the needles penetrate your skin, but once the needles are in place, most people relax and many even fall asleep.  The number and frequency of treatments will vary.  Typical treatments last from five to 30 minutes and may be administered once or twice a week.

Always consult your medical doctor before beginning any acupuncture therapy, or altering any physician-prescribed drug or other treatment program. #acupunctureforcancerpatients

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