In China, over 250,000 cancer patients have participated in clinical trials in Chinese medicine, while across China, Chinese medicine is widely used to treat cancer and complement medical intervention (Xun el al., 2013). In this systematic review of 2,385 randomised clinical trials and 579 non-randomised trials, most of the studies assessed the benefit of treatment in the reduction of side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy: cancer pain; post surgery support; and the prevention of relapse and metastasis.
Our team at the Rozelle Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Centre (RACM) Sydney is very experienced in complementing cancer therapy and closely follows the latest research in Chinese medicine and medical intervention. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are at the forefront of complementary therapy in supporting cancer patients during cancer treatment (Boon et al., 2007; Gou et al., 2012; Jia 2012; Ni et al., 2012; Zhang et al., 2007).
One of the important ways our team complements cancer therapy during treatment is by addressing risk factors relating to the effectiveness of the cancer therapy.
For example, evidence suggests that certain factors increase the risk of poor response and recovery during cancer therapy and that better survival rates are seen when the following factors are addressed:
- Sleep apnea,
- Broken sleep,
- Poor immune response,
- Chronic and acute infections,
- Lack of exercise or insufficient exercise,
- Fatigue and poor muscle mass.
Receiving acupuncture support during cancer therapy may also aid recovery and wellbeing, as well as reduce the risk factors to improve the best possible outcomes of treatment. Many conditions may contribute to the development of risk factors and poor response to cancer therapy.
These may include:
- Anxiety and stress,
- Poor sleep,
- Poor dietary choices,
- Chronic infection,
- Fatigue and exhaustion,
- Chronic pain,
- Post traumatic stress after diagnosis and treatment,
- Side effects to chemo therapy,
- Side effects to radiation therapy,
- Poor recovery after surgery,
- Low white cell counts,
- Lack of exercise and poor muscle tone,
- Night sweats and hot flushes.
Many of these symptoms can be treated with complementary medicine and, in particular, acupuncture is able to gently address multiple symptoms during the one session.
To support better outcomes our team also identifies, discusses, encourages, and supports clients to make the necessary changes to reduce all risk factors, in order to best complement medical intervention. Our practitioners monitor and support our clients through all stages of their cancer treatment while working to reduce risk factors through good guidance and acupuncture.
Our team recommends preparation before surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy commences. We cover diet, nutrition, and lifestyle factors; use acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine to strengthen resilience, calm, relax, and reduce side-effects of cancer therapy and medication; and communicate with encouragement and empathy. Several Sydney specialists refer patients to us because they have observed better tolerance of chemotherapy and radiation therapy in the patients we treat with acupuncture, compared to their patients without our acupuncture support.
Patients are able to benefit from treatment to improve their sense of wellbeing as well as enhance cancer therapy results. The side effects we have treated, with promising outcomes, include:
- Peripheral neuropathy such as numbness, pain, burning and tingling of the hands and fingers, and feet and toes,
- Nausea and loss of appetite,
- Recovery after surgery,
- Poor wound healing,
- Poor immune system response,
- Chronic infections that do not respond well to antibiotic therapy,
- Low white blood cell counts,
- Pain and trauma post surgery,
- Pain and trauma during and after radiation therapy,
- Hot flushes and night sweats in men and women,
- Fatigue and exhaustion,
- Stress and anxiety,
- Restlessness and broken sleep,
- Weight reduction and loss of appetite,
- Painful or keloid scar tissue post surgery,
- Bleeding from the bowel and penis after prostate cancer treatment,
- Chronic diarrhoea post radiation,
- Abdominal swelling and pain.
Currently, the most progressive cancer treatment centres around the world are using a more integrative, holistic, and individualised approach in their treatment of cancer. In Western Australia there is the Solaris Care Foundation Cancer Support Centre at the Sir Charles Gardner House, and in Melbourne there is the Peter MacCullum Cancer Centre. In the USA and Europe the list is larger and growing.
- Boon et al., (2007) Trends in Complementary/Alternative medicine use by breast cancer survivors: comparing survey data from 1990 and 2005. BMC Women’s Health 30: 4.
- Gou et al., (2012) Herbal medicines for advanced colorectal cancer. Cochrane database of systematic reviews.
- Jia L. (2012) Cancer complementary and alternative medicine research at the US National Cancer Institute. Chin J Interg Med 18: 325-332.
- Li PW (2003) Management of cancer with Chinese Medicine. Dominica Publishing.
- Ni et al (2012) Chinese herbal medicine for advanced pancreatic cancer (Protocol). Cochrane database of systematic reviews.
- Xun et al., (2013) Traditional Chinese Medicine in Cancer Care: A review of controlled clinical studies published in Chinese. PLoS ONE 8(4): e60338. do: 10.1371/journal.pone.0060338.