In my seven years of practice as an acupuncturist, I have had the honor of helping numerous patients undergoing chemotherapy.

Obviously being diagnosed with cancer is a very stressful and emotional time, and the decision to do chemotherapy is not always an easy one to make. Support from family, friends, and health-care professionals is extremely important in making this period of time as fluid and stress-free as possible.

So what is the role of acupuncture during chemotherapy?

The role of acupuncture is in post-operative pain control, and in aiding and speeding-up recovery from the side effects of the various therapies.

Acupuncture is effective for:

  • pain
  • reducing local swelling post-operatively
  • shortening the resolution of hematoma and tissue swelling
  • minimizing the use of medications and their side effects
  • it also helps to impart a sense of wellbeing that can accelerate a patient’s recovery

The dreaded nausea and vomiting that numerous patients suffer from while undergoing chemotherapy have been shown to be significantly reduced with the use of acupuncture administered before, after and in between chemotherapy treatment sessions. Its effectiveness helps in minimizing the use of anti-nausea medications with their attendant side effects.

Acupuncture can also be a powerful tool in reducing some cancer-related pain and thereby minimizing the use of powerful pain medications that can have side effects such as confusion, behavioral changes, nausea and severe constipation.

Some chemotherapy patients can also suffer from tingling and numbness in their fingers and toes due to the powerful drugs being administered. Although this condition can be more difficult to treat with acupuncture, it can often be helped.

Besides acupuncture, nutritional support as an aid in boosting immune response in cancer patients, along with minimizing the immune and white blood cell suppression that occurs with most chemotherapeutic agents is extremely important.

Having a positive outlook while going through chemotherapy treatment can be very hard for most people, but I have seen that patients who choose to go through this difficult period with the idea that they can learn and grow from this experience instead of having a victim mentality often have the best outcomes.

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