There are still those who dismiss acupuncture as having a legitimate role in the area of medicine and healing. They are uninformed. This integral part of traditional Chinese medicine has been around for thousands of years and is no longer confined to only Chinese medical centers and small offices hidden in strip malls. Acupuncture is now being taught at Harvard Medical School.
No, the folks at Harvard are not in the process of closing the door on current cancer treatment and replacing it with acupuncture. What is happening, though, is the recognition of the important role that it and other forms of complementary treatment can have for cancer and many other conditions. Steadily, and with increasing acceptance, this ancient healing technique is being incorporated into medical practices all over the country. It is estimated that, currently, a third of all acupuncturists who are certified to practice in the U.S. are medical doctors.
Acupuncture is done through the process of inserting very fine, FDA-approved (since 1996), metal needles into precise points on the body. Insertion locations are based on meridians, which are a highly complex network of energy pathways. Long before being deemed worthy of study at Harvard, practitioners of this ancient form of treatment relied on a deep understanding of how the body works, all without benefit of modern scientific equipment.
Does Acupuncture Help in Treating Cancer?
If the question was “does acupuncture heal cancer?”, it would be harder to answer. Some advocates would say that it can, while the majority would drown them out by saying there is no evidence to substantiate that. But, what can claim to heal or cure cancer? What acupuncture has been proven to do is to be very effective at relieving many of the symptoms associated with cancer and the side effects of cancer treatment.
Several independent studies have borne this out, especially one published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, based on a group of breast cancer patients undergoing high-dose chemotherapy. The patients who were given acupuncture along with traditional medications experienced significantly less nausea than those who did not receive acupuncture. Other studies found similar results with post-chemotherapy fatigue, pain relief and a preliminary study in Sweden reported acupuncture cutting hot flashes in half.
Cancer Symptoms Controlled or Reduced with Acupuncture
Acupuncture has been shown to be effective in relieving or reducing many of the symptoms associated with breast cancer and other types of cancer, as well as the side effects of other forms of treatment. Some of the most common include:
- Nausea – associated with chemotherapy
- Vomiting – associated with chemotherapy
- Weight loss
- Insomnia and inability to sleep through the night
- Lack appetite
- Dry mouth
- Hot flashes
- Nerve issues
- Constipation and diarrhea
- Digestion issues following surgery
Western medicine has been slow to embrace the use of acupuncture and other forms of seemingly non-scientific medicine. That is changing and our options are the better for it. The medical community is beginning to embrace the complementary nature of the incorporation of acupuncture into treatment plans for cancer; to be used in addition to, not in replacement of, current recommended treatment protocols. If tiny needles can help relieve any of the list above, perhaps the question should be “why not give patients the benefit of acupuncture?”