Can acupuncture help patients with breast cancer? Breast cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths in women. According to the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation, over 3,000 people are diagnosed with breast cancer annually in New Zealand. The Ministry of Health notes that more than 600 people die from breast cancer every year. Globally, the number of new cases stands at around 1.7 million with over 500,000 deaths.
Several risk factors lead to a high prevalence of breast cancer. These include genetic factors, gender, consumption of alcohol, age, previous breast cancer diagnosis, use of contraceptives and early menstruation.
People suffering from cancer often struggle with the symptoms of the disease and the side effects of conventional treatments. Acupuncture may be helpful in the treatment of breast cancer.
Acupuncture for Breast Cancer Treatment
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), including acupuncture, aims to improve overall health thereby helping specific conditions. Acupuncture aims to stimulate the nervous system and restore balance in the body. It focuses on releasing blocked “qi” (vital life energy) and promoting its flow through “meridians” (pathways). It does this by inserting needles to stimulate specific points on the body.
In a typical acupuncture session, the practitioner asks questions to understand the patient’s overall health. This allows them to tailor the treatment to your specific condition.The practitioner then inserts thin, sterile needles into specific points known as “acupuncture points.” The needling is mostly painless.
Acupuncture has been shown to help manage acute and chronic pain without adverse side effects. A growing number of studies also suggest that acupuncture can help relieve cancer-related pain.
Research on Acupuncture for Breast Cancer
- Swelling: According to a 2013 study published in American Cancer Society Journals, acupuncture helps reduce the chronic swelling of a limb after chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
- Joint Pain: A recent study by Australian researchers concluded that “acupuncture is feasible and safe in patients with breast cancer with joint pain caused by Aromatase inhibitors.”
- Cancer Pain: In a randomized, controlled trial appearing in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, the research findings showed that acupuncture reduced the intensity of pain among cancer patients.
- Nausea and Vomiting: A study appearing in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that electroacupuncture helps with nausea in breast cancer patients. The findings suggested that acupuncture was more effective at reducing episodes of nausea after chemotherapy than traditional anti-nausea medication.
- Hot flashes: A 2010 study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine notes that acupuncture reduces hot flashes associated with breast cancer. The research also showed that acupuncture was safe and it improved the patient’s emotional and physical well-being.
- Fatigue: According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, acupuncture is effective at relieving breast cancer related fatigue.
Breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancer and a leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women. Therefore, it’s important to consider all safe and effective treatments available. Acupuncture has been shown to be safe and effective at managing a wide range of cancer symptoms.
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