Acupuncture and Cancer
A frequently asked question by patients undergoing cancer treatment is:
"Can acupuncture help my cancer?"
The question then quickly becomes:
"is there a place for acupuncture in the vast field of cancer with its diverse treatment modalities?"
The indication of "Vast" in the context of cancer, is that cancer is a complex disease with over 300 different malignancies - each with its own unique histology, patho-physiology, and clinical behavior. The use of "DIverse" is because of the different chemotherapeutic classes of agents, hormonal agents, types of High-energy particle beam generators, and various delivery systems for radiation treatment. "Diverse" is also used because it encompasses various types of surgical procedures, nutritional support, and the body-mind holistic approach.
Timely diagnosis and early surgery offer the most favorable possibility of a cure for solid tumors. The germinal cancers and Hodgkin's lymphoma, along with some hematologic malignancies such as childhood leukemia, are the few exceptions. These are treated with chemotherapy, radiation therapy, bone marrow or stem cell transplantation singly or in combination. Some of the latter are the most predictably curable malignancies with or without surgery.
If the diagnosis is late, surgery unsuccessful, or should the tumor recur after surgery, then the chance of a cure, with rare exceptions, is considered lost This class of patients, along with those not amenable to surgical approaches, are treated palliatively. Palliative therapies also consist of chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, and radiation therapy and/or palliative surgery.
The role of acupuncture in the curative group is in its adjunctive use in anaesthesia, in post-operative pain control, and in aiding and hastening recovery from the side effects of the various therapies.
Acupuncture has been used for relief of some cancer treatment symptoms, of local swelling post-operatively, for shortening the resolution of hematoma and tissue swelling and for minimising use of medications and their attendant side effects. Energetic acupuncture, an approach consisting of the use of needles with electricity and moxibustion (a form of local heating with herbs imparts a sense of well being and accelerates patients' recovery. In conjunction with nutritional support, its use is routinely employed in some cancer institutions. The dreaded nausea and vomiting which commonly occurs in some patients undergoing chemotherapy and inevitably, with the use of certain classes of agents, can often be worse than the disease itself.
Most oncologists have experienced the patients who start vomiting at the thought of their next clinic visit. At the University of Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Medicine, a well-controlled study completed over two Years ago, the authors of the published paper reported significant reduction of nausea and vomiting when pre-treated with. It is now routinely administered before, after and in between chemotherapy treatment sessions for control or nausea and emesis.
Such treatments are relatively simple and easily executed in an outpatient setting. Its effectiveness helps in minimising the use of standard, expensive multi-drug anti-nausea regimens with their attendant side effects, given along with the chemotherapeutic agents.
Acupuncture as a powerful tool for general pain relief is widely known, what is lesser known is its success use in some cancer-related pain and in reducing narcotic use and thereby minimising the side effects confusion, disturbed mentation, behavioural changes, nausea and severe constipation.
Acupuncturist have a selection of approaches in attempting to deal with symptoms of Cancer treatment symptoms, they include needling a variety of trigger and painful points, percutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, and osteo-puncture, along with whole body energetic acupuncture support. In the acupuncture paradigm, any chronic disease process depletes the energy level in the organism. Such depletion can be ameliorated, at least temporarily, by tonification, a process of imparting energy into the system. This is deemed necessary for more durable, successful pain control. It can also add to the patients' sense of well being and decrease the malaise associated with any chronic disease, especially cancer. Nutritional support as an aid in boosting immune response in cancer patients, along with minimising the immune and white blood cell suppression that occurs with most chemotherapeutic agents, has been receiving greater attention and funding for research.. Kenneth Conklin, M.D., Ph.D., an anaesthesiologist at UCLA working with the Oncology Department, reports gratifying results utilising nutrition and supplements combined with energetic acupuncture.
Energetic acupuncture repletes energy level to the organism as a whole, reestablishes homeostasis by re-balancing energy distribution and un-blocking energy flow. This systems approach to deal with system wide patho-physiology can be complemented by distinct meridian acupuncture, which directs healing energy to specific organ pathology and is a routine approach in treating diseased organs such as liver, pancreas kidney, including those ravaged by cancers.
It is important to notice that the extent of Chinese Medicine methods in treating Cancer beyond managing cancer treatment symptoms - lacks conclusive written evidence, therefore advertisement in acupuncture in treating cancer symptoms is not permitted by the Australian government regulations
. As a result, we cannot publicly, privately and commercially claim and guarantee the result of Acupuncture for cancer symptoms.
We can only speak from TCM Dr. Bill Zhang's clinical experience that he has successfully helped many past patients in managing cancer treatments through the use of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture.
The degree of beneficial results from acupuncture treatment is completely dependent on various clinical factors such as presenting symptoms, clinical staging, timing of the encounter in the areas and course of the illness. It is up to an individual case by case consult with TCM Dr. Bill Zhang to determine the best course of action moving forward.