When going through intense treatments for breast cancer, patients can experience a variety of side effects that disrupt their quality of life, like joint pain, fatigue, nausea, and hot flashes. Often, dealing with those side effects leads to wanting palliative (or supportive) care.
Palliative care is meant to treat the entire body (instead of targeting just the cancer) with the hope of diminishing or eliminating treatment side effects. Additional care can range from physical to emotional to spiritual healing and is provided by caregivers who specialize in supportive care.
When it comes to TCM, acupuncture is a popular supportive treatment cancer patients turn to for relief. In 2012, Molassiotis published a study that analyzed over 300 people with breast cancer and found acupuncture helped those patients better manage side effects from chemotherapy, surgery, radiation therapy and hormone therapy.
Here are three ways acupuncture as a palliative care can benefit cancer patients:
Relieve Joint Pain
Joint pain is very common when undergoing cancer treatment and can occur weeks or months after treatment has ended. According to the National Cancer Institute, 50% of patients experience joint pain caused by taking aromatase inhibitors, a drug commonly used in the treatment of women with breast cancer. In a study conducted by Columbia University Irving Medical Center and NewYork-Presbyterian, a group of researchers found 60% of the early-stage breast cancer patients surveyed experienced a decrease in joint pain after incorporating acupuncture into their treatment regimen.
Reduce Fatigue, Nausea, Vomiting
While research is still being conducted on the extent of the impact acupuncture has on these side effects, several studies have shown significant results in decreased fatigue, nausea and vomiting. In addition to acupuncture treatments, research has shown using acupressure wrist bands can be effective in reducing nausea and vomiting as a result of chemotherapy, too.
Control Hot Flashes
Just like joint pain, hot flashes are often caused by the use of aromatase inhibitors. Hot flashes are fairly common and can vary in levels of severity. While acupuncture hasn’t proven to eliminate hot flashes entirely, it may reduce the occurrence and severity significantly.
If you’re wanting to try acupuncture as a palliative treatment, it’s important to find a practitioner that has experience working with cancer patients. Though acupuncture is regarded as extremely safe with relatively few risks when performed by a professional, it’s important to consult with your oncologist or care team to make sure it is right for you.