By Steven Siroky, L.Ac. and Yi-Jun Lin, L.Ac.

It is estimated that in the United States, 60-80% of cancer patients seek out some type of alternative therapy while undergoing conventional cancer treatment. Alternative therapies such as acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, homeopathy, nutritional supplementation, massage, yoga, meditation and prayer are often used in conjunction with conventional therapies such as chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. Perhaps the most widely researched are is that of acupuncture as an adjunctive therapy to help mitigate chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting. Other areas of research include the use of acupuncture for post-chemotherapy fatigue, in the treatment of early induced menopause in breast cancer patients, and in the reduction of chronic pain in cancer patients. Studies conducted in China have also shown that acupuncture can help enhance immune function and provide symptom relief from the side-effects of chemotherapy.

As an adjunctive therapy, the goal of the acupuncture treatments should be to mitigate the side-effects of conventional treatment, improve quality of life, and help strengthen the patient so that they have the ability to fight the cancer. Another critical area of focus is to help keep the patient’s digestive system strong and to try and minimize weight loss. By keeping the digestive system functioning as optimally as possible under the circumstances, the patient will be in a much better place to stay physically strong, fight the cancer, and maintain a better quality of life.

One area that is often overlooked when someone is fighting cancer is the impact the disease has on the caregivers. The impact of cancer on family, friends and loved ones is often overlooked as they silently struggle to help their loved ones fight this disease. Acupuncture and massage in particular are two effective ways to help ease caregiver stress and maintain caregiver health so that they can be a source of strong support to their loved ones.

Cancer patients who are considering the use of alternative therapies should always consult with their physician before starting any new treatment and discuss the options available to them. For more information on alternative therapies used in the treatment of cancer, see the National Cancer Institute’s website at www.cancer.gov/cam or the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine’s website at www.nccam.nih.gov.

Steven Siroky and Yi-Jun Lin are licensed acupuncturists and herbalists with extensive training in Japanese meridian therapy which is a gentle, highly effective form of acupuncture. They can be reached at Carolinas Natural Health Center at 704-708-4404.