Cancer is a group of diseases involving abnormal cell growth with the potential to spread to other parts of the body. There are over 100 different types of cancer and each is classified by the type of cell that is initially affected.
According to the American Cancer Society, cancer is the second most common cause of death in the United States. In 2014 there were an estimated 14,738,719 people living with cancer in America, and it’s estimated that there will be over 1,500,000 new cases of cancer diagnoses every year.
Acupuncture is becoming more commonly used to treat a variety of symptoms and conditions associated with cancer and the side effects of cancer treatments. A number of cancer centers including Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, and M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston are integrating acupuncture into modern oncology.
Randomized Clinical Trials (RTC’s) have conclusively demonstrated that acupuncture is safe and effective for chemo-therapy-induced nausea and vomiting. Research also suggests that acupuncture may be helpful in managing cancer related pain, post-operative pain, chemotherapy related neutropenia (low white blood cell count), cancer fatigue, radiation-induced xerostomia (dry mouth), and possibly insomnia and anxiety, and also improves quality of life (“The Value of Acupuncture in Cancer Care”) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2642987/
Click on the links below for a deeper dive into published medical studies supporting the use of acupuncture for oncology patients.
Breast Cancer Hot Flashes- “Acupuncture in association with enhanced self-care is an effective integrative intervention for managing hot flashes and improving quality of life in women with breast cancer” (“Acupuncture as an Integrative Approach for the Treatment of Hot Flashes in Women with Breast Cancer: A Prospective Multicenter Randomized Controlled Trial”) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27022113
Breast Cancer Joint Pain- “Women with aromatase inhibitor associated joint pain treated with acupuncture had significant improvement of joint pain and stiffness which was not seen with sham acupuncture. Acupuncture is an effective and well-tolerated strategy for managing this common treatment-related side effect” (“Randomized, Blinded, Sham-Controlled Trial of Acupuncture for the Management of Aromatase Inhibitor-Associated Joint Symptoms in Women with Early-Stage Breast Cancer”) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20100963
Chemotherapy- “Applying acupuncture at particular acupuncture points can influence tissue distribution of Paclitaxel (chemotherapy drug). Acupuncture resulted in an obvious decrease of paclitaxel distribution in the kidney and delayed distribution in the liver. Meanwhile, it increased the time of metabolism. Acupuncture at acupuncture point BL13 (a major acupuncture point for the lung) facilitated the delivery of Paclitaxel to the lung more effectively than did acupuncture at acupuncture point Du10 (an acupuncture point located in the same region as BL13). (“Effects of Acupuncture on the Tissue Distribution of Paclitaxel in Lung Carcinoma in Mice”) https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11655-014-1819-1
Chemotherapy- At least one study shows that adding vitamin B-12 (in the form of methylcobalamin) with acupuncture yields the best results for chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (“Acupuncture Combined with Methylocobalamin for the Treatment of Chemotherapy-Induced Peripheral Neuropathy in Patients with Multiple Myeloma”)
Dry Mouth- “Acupuncture at LI2 (acupuncture point associated with “heat in the body” and used for conditions of the mouth, throat, and face) was associated with neuronal activations absent during sham acupuncture stimulation. Neuroimaging signal changes appear correlated with saliva production” (“Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) Changes and Saliva Production Associated with Acupuncture at LI2 Acupuncture Point: A Randomized Controlled Study”) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2474572/
Lung Cancer- “Acupuncture may be an effective approach for improving symptoms (pain and well-being in particular) in lung cancer patients” (“The Potential Role for Acupuncture in Treating Symptoms in Patients with Lung Cancer: an Observational Longitudinal Study”) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3671020/
Chemotherapy-Induced Nausea and Vomiting- “Acupuncture is effective in preventing chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting and in promoting better quality of life with fewer adverse effects” (“Efficacy of Acupuncture in Prevention of Delayed Chemotherapy-Induced Nausea and Vomiting in Gynecologic Cancer Patients”) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25449310/
Post-Cancer Surgery Pain and Dry Mouth- “Significant reductions in pain, dysfunction, and xerostomia (dry mouth) were observed in patients receiving acupuncture verses usual care” (“Acupuncture for Pain and Dysfunction after Neck Dissection: Results of a Randomized Controlled Trial”) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20406930
Radiation-Induced Dry Mouth (that doesn’t respond to medication)- “Acupuncture using a standard protocol may contribute to less xerostomia (dry mouth) for some patients with refractory symptoms after radiotherapy” (“Acupuncture Technique for Pilocarpine-Resistant Xerostomia Following Radiotherapy for Head and Neck Malignancies”) https://www.academia.edu/29701969/Acupuncture_for_pilocarpine-resistant_xerostomia_following_radiotherapy_for_head_and_neck_malignancies