By Lisa (Yuehui Li) Zhou, L.Ac.; MD (China)
Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine has been recognized by the World Health Organization as well as the conventional Western medical circle as an alternative, but effective way of relieving pain and treating a wide range of diseases. The question arises: Can acupuncture and Chinese Medicine help treating cancer? The answer is not an easy, at least not a clear-cut one. While most practitioners of the acupuncture and Chinese Medicine make modest claims for the efficacy of their cancer therapy, there is considerable evidence for its benefits in pain control and in alleviating the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Patients frequently report these benefits, as well. There is also evidence to believe that acupuncture and traditional Chinese Medicine may help in the battle to extend life with cancer and to lower the risk of recurrence of cancer.
One of the major reasons that it is difficult to access the effectiveness of the treatment of cancer is that patients who come for help in the acupuncture and Chinese Medicine clinic, in most cases, resort to acupuncture and Chinese Medicine at a late stage in their disease, and usually in despair. Because of this, the effectiveness of acupuncture and Chinese Medicine is relatively difficult to measure. Despite of this, research has shown that acupuncture and Chinese Medicine can be very beneficial in 1) Controlling Pain 2) Controlling Radiation-Induced Injuries 3) Extending Survival with Cancer 4) Herbal Therapies for Cancer
Controlling Pain: Acupuncture has the capacity, in the right hands, for controlling cancer-related or treatment-related pain. Many North American cancer patients testify to the pain relief they have obtained with acupuncture. Cancerous pain may be divided into three stages, i.e., the early, middle and terminal stages. Acupuncture is effective for early and middle stage pain and has a pain-relieving effect that is different in type from the relief gained by other analgesics.
Controlling Radiation-Induced Injuries: Edema caused by radiation treatment is one of the most vexing ongoing problems for many cancer patients, particularly those with breast cancer. A considerable number of studies report on the value of acupuncture as part of an integrated approach to managing pain and edema and restoring immune function after radiotherapy.
Extending Survival with Cancer: While most traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners are extremely cautious with regard to any claims that acupuncture or other modalities may extend life, some animal studies suggest it might play a role in life extension. For example, an Israeli study looked at the effects of moxibustion in transplanted mouse breast carcinoma. The mouse breast tumors were surgically removed with and without the application of moxibustion. The protective effect of the moxibustion was remarkable.
Herbal Therapies for Cancer: Many people are not aware that in addition to acupuncture, moxibustion, and acupressure, herbal therapies are one of the principle remedies in traditional Chinese Medicine. With some necessary cautions, it is important to recognize that traditional Chinese herbal therapies have already yielded a significant number of anticancer drugs, including indirubin from dang gui lu hui wan, irisquinone from Iris lactea pallasii and Zhuling polysaccharide from Polyporus umbellata. There is no question that the ingredients of many traditional Chinese herbal remedies are pharmacologically active in cancer. It is estimated that Chinese herbs and plants from 120 species belonging to 60 different families have been used to treat cancer. The formulas and herbs don't propose to cure cancer as such, but many of them do alleviate pain and prolong life by supplementing and strengthening the body's life force and by arresting the progression of tumors.
In summary, research is still on its early stage to provide evidence that acupuncture and Chinese Medicine can provide a cure to cancer. However, research has shown that acupuncture and Chinese Medicine can be effective and beneficial in controlling cancer-related pains, controlling radiation-related injuries, prolonging cancer patients’ life and providing anticancer drugs. Above all, in the treatment of cancer it is very important to adjust the treatment approach to the patient's condition at the time of the needling session. In order to give the treatment an orientation it is imperative to devise a treatment plan that is based on an understanding of the patient's condition and needs. For those reasons, you should seek a professionally certified acupuncturist who understands both acupuncture and other branches of the Traditional Chinese Medicine including herbal therapies