by Jocelito Camargo
Cancer is the leading cause of death in Canada and is responsible for 30% of all deaths. On average, 617 Canadians would be diagnosed with cancer every day (Canadian Cancer Society).
And how we can fight it? Although cancer is caused by mutations to the DNA in our cells, there are some ways to prevent the development of the disease, such as modification in our lifestyle: smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, excessive exposure to the sun or frequent blistering sunburns, being obese, unhealth diet and having unsafe sex can contribute to cancer.
Some habits are easier to change than others, but we can lower our risk of cancer when we make the right choices.
Does acupuncture treat cancer?
No, but acupuncture may integrate your current treatment to help you to go through this process. Acupuncture may reduce symptoms related to chemotherapy, such as pain, neuropathy, dry mouth, fatigue, hot flashes, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea or constipation, insomnia, anxiety, and depression.
Is acupuncture safe for cancer patients?
Yes. Your acupuncturist is part of the health care team and works together with your medical doctor. Acupuncture is an integrative practice responsible for reducing the toxic effects of chemo and radiation and increasing the patient’s tolerance to the treatment.
Is there any scientific proof of the effectiveness of acupuncture?
Yes. Acupuncture is nowadays integrated into many medical centers around the world, like Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, in New York. There are thousands of scientific articles published in important journals, including Jama Oncology.
In 2019, a study evaluating performance in more than 1000 patients was published at Jama Oncology1. This systematic review and meta-analysis found that acupuncture was significantly associated with reduced cancer pain and decreased use of analgesics.
In another article2 published in 2018, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, in a practice guideline, recommended acupuncture for chronic pain in adult cancer survivors.
In 2013 it was also proved3 that acupuncture is an appropriate adjunctive treatment for chemotherapy-induced nausea/vomiting.
Do I need a referral for acupuncture treatment?
No, but it is important that your physician is aware of your sessions and agrees with bi-lateral communication.
When should I start my acupuncture sessions?
The sooner the better. With earlier sessions, you may feel stronger to handle better the effects of chemotherapy.
1 – He Y, Guo X, May BH, et al. Clinical Evidence for Association of Acupuncture and Acupressure With Improved Cancer Pain: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. JAMA Oncol. 2020;6(2):271-278. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2019.5233
2 – Weidong Lu, David S. Rosenthal – Oncology Acupuncture for Chronic Pain in Cancer Survivors: A Reflection on the American Society of Clinical Oncology Chronic Pain Guideline, Hematology/Oncology Clinics of North America, Volume 32, Issue 3, 2018, Pages 519-533
3 – Systematic Review of Acupuncture in Cancer Care: A Synthesis of the Evidence
M. Kay Garcia, Jennifer McQuade, Robin Haddad, Sonya Patel, Richard Lee, Peiying Yang, J. Lynn Palmer, Lorenzo Cohen – J Clin Oncol. 2013 Mar 1; 31(7): 952-960. Published online 2013 Jan 22. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2012.43.5818