Addressing Breast Cancer with Alternative Cancer Treatments: Acupuncture, Part 1
While modern medicine evolves to more effectively treat breast cancer, unfortunately the side effects of treatments and the disease itself still persist. Options for relief can become increasingly limited with medications, chemo, radiation, and surgery. Adding alternative cancer treatments, such as acupuncture, has proven to be a very safe, effective, and seamlessly integrative modality, regardless of the types of cancer treatment used. It can prevent side effects from treatment, increase energy, augment treatment itself, and boost the immune system.
Acupuncture originated in China around 2700 B.C. Chinese medicine holds to the idea of holism, and its practice reflects an understanding that the body, mind, and spirit are integral. Acupuncture works by affecting the change in balance of Qi (Chi), the vital force, or the bodys ability to heal itself. Restoring health depends on the balance of Yin and Yang. Each point used has a relationship to the internal structures, organs, blood, and the immune system itself.
The way in which change, as well as disease, comes into being is individual; this pathway of development is non-linear. While the main concern of breast cancer is always treated, the person as a WHOLE is also addressed. This includes the mental-emotional aspects, physical symptoms, pain, digestion, sleep, energy, and spirit, among others. A unique characteristic of using acupuncture is having the ability to adapt to the patients changing constitution, on a daily or even weekly basis. Each treatment can then immediately and individually address new symptoms or changes just as they occur.
Numerous studies have shown that acupuncture is effective for:
- Nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy
- Cancer pain
- Low WBCs and immune deficiency
- Radiation-induced dry mouth
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Swelling or decreased range of motion of arms after lymph nodes have been removed
Menopausal symptoms are a very common women’s health concern for many patients. Hot flashes, night sweats, urinary problems, musculoskeletal symptoms, mood swings, and decreased cognition are common issues. Hormonal replacement therapy is often contraindicated with cancer, and here acupuncture can make a real difference WITHOUT causing an increase in hormonal activity. Studies show that acupuncture causes measurable changes in hot flashes, cortisol levels, endorphins, serotonin, adrenalin, and even collagen. It influences the way in which our bodies naturally regulate temperature, making it more stable. In a study of women over 35 years old taking Tamoxifen for at least six months after active cancer treatment, 50% had a decreased frequency of hot flashes and night sweats. At 4 and 18 weeks AFTER acupuncture ended, they STILL showed significant improvements in hot flashes, night sweats, anxiety, memory, sexual behavior, and sleep concerns.
In women who had electro-acupuncture for 12 weeks, the average number of hot flashes decreased by 50%. One year later, 74% had the same improvement, and two years later one-third had decreased by 78%. Another study examined quality of life of breast cancer survivors two years after taking estrogen blockers. Women treated with acupuncture had lass problems overall, and generally a more positive outlook on life. Acupuncture was proven to be as effective as Venlafaxine in another study in decreasing hot flashes, without all the negative side effects. Within two weeks the Venlafaxine group had nausea, dizziness, dry mouth, and anxiety, while the acupuncture group continued to improve three months after treatment had stopped!
When it comes to cancer, where additional, even natural, treatment options may become limited due to specific courses of treatment, acupuncture has become a front-runner for safe, effective care. For women suffering from a variety of menopausal symptoms, this modality has proven very useful for preventing and addressing individual concerns as they arise. And the most impressive benefit is that the effects continue, even when the acupuncture does not.
Article contributed by Dr. Michelle Retz