The combination of complimentary medicines and western medicine is increasingly used in health care sectors across the world and is known as Integrative Medicine. In Integrative Oncology, mainstream treatment, including surgery, radiation and chemotherapy is used in conjunction with complementary therapies to treat side effects brought on by these treatments and to treat the overall well being of oncology patients. As expressed in the Integrative Oncology department at Memorial Sloane Kettering Cancer Center in New York, “Integrative oncology combines the best of mainstream care and complementary therapies to control physical and emotional symptoms, improve quality of life and speed recovery.”
Acupuncture is a form of complementary medicine frequently used in conjunction with mainstream medicine for cancer care. Its role in cancer care includes:
- Supportive Treatment
- Symptom Management
- Preventive Care
Acupuncture can be used in all phases of cancer treatment.
For the pre-surgical patient, acupuncture promotes relaxation, prevents side effects and alleviates symptoms. The optimum time for treatment is two days before surgery.
Post surgery, acupuncture helps with pain control, decreases swelling, helps to prevent scar tissue contraction and shortens recovery time.
Radiation and Chemotherapy are standard treatments in cancer care as they are very effective in the destruction of cancer cells. Unfortunately, these treatments also destroy fast reproducing healthy cells in the skin, bone marrow, intestines, hair follicles and reproductive system. Acupuncture may improve immune function and increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy. Acupuncture should be given the day before Chemotherapy or Radiation treatment. The following side effects of radiation and chemotherapy can be alleviated with acupuncture:
- Low White Blood Cell Count
- Nausea & Vomiting
- Sensitivity to Cold
- Shortness of Breath
- Loss of Appetite
- Hepatic Dysfunction
For the patient having a Bone Marrow Transplant, while undergoing Chemotherapy, Acupuncture helps the immune system prepare for transplant and relaxes the patient for the procedure.
How does Acupuncture work? Specific point combinations have been shown to increase antibodies, T cell count, hemoglobin and red blood cells, white blood count (especially neutrophils), normalize irregular heartbeat, regulate blood pressure, improve peristalisis of the esophagus and the intestines, regulate stomach acid secretion and help stabilize peripheral nerve damage. Acupuncture modulates the sensory pain center in the brain producing the analgesic effect. Acupuncture helps release neurotransmitters including Serotonin, Norepinephrine and Dopamine.