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Living Beyond Breast Cancer Blog

Acupuncture & Cancer

Acupuncture is an excellent healing modality following the treatment of cancer, and during the establishment of a new "normal". Many people think of acupuncture for relieving back pain, quitting smoking, or easing nausea from chemotherapy. But there are many ways that acupuncture can play a key role in full recovery from cancer, regardless of the course of medical treatment. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center has offered acupuncture since 1999 and has documented the efficacy of acupuncture treatments for post-operative pain as well as lingering chemotherapy and radiation symptoms. Hot flashes, insomnia, anxiety, fatigue, stomach distress, anemia are among the most common complaints.

"Receiving acupuncture was one of the most beneficial things I did to support myself both during and following cancer treatment. It has helped me enormously on a physical, emotional and spiritual level."

-A.R.D., acupuncture patient and cancer survivor

The period of time following breast cancer treatment is one of significant transition. Women are coming to the end of an extremely challenging time and often want to integrate positive self -care, like healthy diet, exercise and meditation. Acupuncture is an outstanding choice for healing during this time since it works on the body, mind, and spirit. Many acupuncturists can make suggestions about these concerns and also provide exceptional emotional support.

Choosing the right acupuncturist is also important. Each practitioner has his or her own style and a good fit is essential. I recommend speaking with a few practioners and making sure that your schedules are compatible, and that you have a positive sense of this person either face-to-face or on the phone. When seeking care following cancer, it is essential to select an experienced practitioner who also has knowledge of working with cancer patients and internal medicine. Do not be shy about asking any questions you have about their approach to treatment. If you start receiving acupuncture and do not feel comfortable with the practitioner, do not hesitate to find someone who will better complement your recovery support team.

In my clinic, I find people to be particularly responsive to acupuncture following cancer treatment. Acupuncture is widely believed to support the individual's healing mechanism. Acupuncture can help clear the affects of surgeries with protocols for healing scar tissue and assisting range of motion. The time following diagnosis and treatment is often a very emotional period which deserves a great deal of compassion and support. Mood changes are commonly reported, including anxiety, depression and insomnia. These emotional issues respond very well to acupuncture treatments and the therapeutic relationship. At a spirit level, I see women who have experienced loss and trauma, but also possess an emerging sense of connection and a realization of strength. In addition there is the gradual process of seeing oneself as being strong and resilient, after having been very sick.

From a practitioner's perspective, the work that I do with patients who have had cancer is often the most meaningful. I view this as inspirational work, a chance to support women who have faced many fears and pain. My role as an acupuncturist affords me an opportunity to help my patients rebuild and to identify the virtues that they already possess that support them during this journey. The intimacy of our acupuncture sessions, and the time spend is partticularly helpful and nurturing. In addition to being a complementary medical modality, acupuncture provides patients with an opportunity to be known and cared for.