How can acupuncture help me cope with breast cancer?

Dr. Pina LoGiudice, LAc, ND
Naturopathic Medicine
Studies are coming out showing the benefits of using acupuncture adjunctively to treat the side effects of breast cancer medication such as hot flashes, nausea, and lymphedema swelling due to removal of lymph nodes. Although acupuncture may not be known to directly stop cancer growth, it is very helpful for patients going through conventional chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

One study presented at the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology studied acupuncture specifically in 47 women using anti-estrogen therapies such as Arimidex and Tamoxifen. These drugs are known to cause side effects of hot flashes, for which many women are treated with Effexor, an anti-depressant. The acupuncture worked equally as well as the medication Effexor to curb hot flashes, and the acupuncture group also had more energy, less side effects and some had increased sex drive. This is certainly similar to the results we see in our practice for women using medications, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments. Instead of using more drugs to balance side effects of the treatments, acupuncture is a wonderful adjunct that is virtually side effect-free, and helps balance the spirit, as well as the body.

Acupuncture can be quite helpful in controlling some types of pain or nausea from caner or its treatment. Often considered a "complementary" modality of care, it has become more accepted and available through most major cancer centers on-site or by referral.

Studies to see if acupuncture can reduce hot flashes in men or women on radiation therapy, chemotherapy or hormonal treatments for breast or prostate cancer are underway.

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