When one thinks of acupuncture, one may envision a nice relaxing trip to a day spa, where after a long massage or a relaxing facial, tension in body can be further relieved through this ancient practice where thin needles are inserted into the body. However, this traditional Chinese medicine may benefit cancer patients by helping reduce symptoms of the cancer itself, or side effects to the treatment administered. An article published in the Hematology/Oncology Clinics of North America in 2008 explained the potential benefits of acupuncture after randomized clinical trials found the treatment was effective in reducing nausea, fatigue, neutropenia, and xerostomia associated with cancer.
Archaeological evidence suggests that acupuncture practice dates back to 100 B.C. in China, making it one of the oldest practices in Chinese medicine that is widely used today. This medicine was founded on the basis that disease is caused by disruptions in the flow of energy in the body. To release this flow of energy, needles are inserted into acupressure points, and left in place for between 10 and 20 minutes. This helps the body reestablish the body’s own self-healing mechanisms. As a recognized treatment for chronic pain, scientists and researchers have been testing acupuncture as a complementary therapy for cancer patients, to not only help alleviate pain but to also manage side effects from cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation.
A more recent study presented to the American Society of Clinical Oncology from the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas focused on 375 cancer patients who were reported to have nausea, pain, fatigue, dry mouth, hot flashes, and poor sleep from either their disease or the side effects of their cancer treatments. Patients included in this study suffered from breast cancer, or cancer in the chest, head, or neck. After the acupuncture treatment, 75 percent felt their symptoms alleviated, and were more likely to return for follow up treatments. Even though the study did not include those diagnosed with mesothelioma, scientists and researchers hope that because there is a similarity in symptoms, acupuncture can also help manage the fatigue, nausea, and chest pain associated with mesothelioma.
According to the National Cancer Institute, acupuncture is considered to be Complementary and Alternative Medicine, meaning that it is a practice that is not part of standard medical care. Scientists and researchers have noted that it has been especially challenging in choosing the control for acupuncture clinical trials because the varying techniques of the practice may lead to inaccurate results.
The pain associated with mesothelioma can be devastating and debilitating. Those who are suffering in the later stages of the disease may choose palliative care for pain and symptom management, as standard mesothelioma treatment can have serious side effects. Acupuncture side effects tend to be minor and are generally considered to be safe if done correctly.
Weidong Lu, et. al., “The Value of Acupuncture in Cancer Care” Hematology/Oncology Clinics of North America (August 2008). [Link]
Gabriel Lopez, et.al., Outpatient Acupuncture Effects On Patient Self-Reported Symptoms In Oncology Care: A Retrospective Analysis Of Real-World Data,” American Society of Clinical Oncology (November 16, 2018). [Link]
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