Each year, millions of patients undergo chemotherapy as part of treatment for cancer. Chemotherapy is an important and effective treatment for cancer, using very strong drugs that target cancer cells to eradicate them. Although beneficial in controlling some cancers and increasing survival of patients, chemotherapy can have many negative side effects including nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, fatigue, anemia, body ache, headache, night sweats, stomach cramps and diarrhea.
Acupuncture has shown promising results in controlling common side effects of chemotherapy. Using thin, sterile acupuncture needles in specific points on the body, acupuncture is used to redirect energy through acupuncture channels (or meridians). It has been shown that patients who use acupuncture in conjunction with a chemotherapy regimen can better tolerate treatment and experience fewer side effects.
The Benefits of Acupuncture for Cancer Patients
- Relief of Cancer Pain
In a 2003 study, researchers found that undergoing acupuncture helped reduce the intensity of cancer pain among 90 patients for whom pain-reducing medication was not sufficient.
- Easing Post-Chemotherapy Fatigue
Acupuncture shows great potential in the management of post-chemotherapy fatigue, according to a 2007 study of 47 patients. After receiving six 20-minute acupuncture sessions over the course of two weeks, study participants experienced significant improvement in general fatigue, physical fatigue, activity, and motivation. Study results also indicated that participants performing acupressure on their own had improvement in fatigue as well.
- Treating Chemotherapy-Related Nausea and Vomiting
In a report published in 2005, researchers reviewed 11 clinical trials and found that acupuncture reduced post-chemotherapy vomiting. The review also found that acupressure helped lessen the severity of post-chemotherapy nausea.
- Reducing Radiation Side Effects
In a pilot study published in 2009, acupuncture was found to be effective for radiation-induced xerostomia (dry mouth). Previous research suggests that acupuncture may also help relieve radiation-induced insomnia and anxiety.