Integrative Medicine Blog

Supporting Chemotherapy with Acupuncture

Christopher Reilly, L.Ac., MSA Sunday, October 11, 2015
Acupuncture breast cancer

Study published in Journal of Clinical Oncology shows that acupuncture may have positive effects in relieving fatigue related to chemotherapy in patients with breast cancer.

Most women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer are treated with chemotherapy. It is a crucial therapy that saves lives, and it also has its side-effects. One such side-effect which can linger for years is chemotherapy-related fatigue, the sense of tiredness and just not "feeling like my normally energetic self."

A study from the University of Manchester, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology in 2012, adds to a growing list of studies showing acupuncture to be an invaluable tool to care for cancer patients. The study included over 300 breast cancer patients who were suffering from moderate to severe fatigue. These women had been treated with chemotherapy within five years previous to the study, and most had been experiencing fatigue for over one year.

The results: after one session of acupuncture per week for six weeks, these women experienced a nearly four point reduction on a 20 point scale of General Fatigue; compared to less than a one point reduction in the control group (the group who did not receive therapeutic acupuncture). In addition to the primary measure of General Fatigue improvement, the study also found that acupuncture was significantly superior to control for improving Mental Fatigue, Physical Fatigue, Anxiety and Depression, and Quality of Life including physical, mental, and social measures of well-being. That was with three pairs of acupuncture points.

This study adds to a growing number of studies on acupuncture for patients with cancer over the past 15 years or so that share a few things in common: they are all positive, and they are all clear. In addition to the above, studies have shown acupuncture to reduce cancer or treatment-related pain, dry mouth, nausea, depression, post-surgical pain and nausea, and hot flashes related to hormone suppression therapy. For links to some of these studies, please check our Facebook page throughout this October's Breast Cancer Awareness month, and have a wonderful Fall!