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Kuan-Chung Chou, LAc
Acupuncture & Chinese Herbs Reduce Side Effects of Chemotherapy
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Acupuncture & Chinese Herbs Reduce Side Effects of Chemotherapy

Acupuncture is a scientifically accepted method for treating pain. Now more information is available about the success of acupuncture in treating cancer-related pain and in minimizing the side effects of chemotherapy. Nausea and vomiting of varying intensity is a very common side-effect of chemotherapy.
Most cancer patients, who undergo chemotherapy, receive anti-nausea medication, but still experience frequent episodes of nausea and vomiting. Acupuncture and electro-acupuncture have been proven to reduce the severity and the number of nausea and vomiting episodes in cancer patients. Acupuncture involves the insertion of needles at various points around the body. Electro-acupuncture involves inserting needles and then passing a electrical current through them.
A study that was conducted at the University of California (UCLA) School of Medicine, revealed significant reduction of nausea and vomiting in patients who were pre-treated with acupuncture. Currently, acupuncture is routinely administered before, after and in between chemotherapy treatment sessions for control of nausea and vomiting. Such treatments are relatively simple and easily executed in an outpatient setting. Acupuncture does not have side effects compared to standard anti-nausea medications. It also may help boost the immune system, reduce pain and consequently give patients a sense of well-being.
A similar study was carried out at the National Institutes of Health, where thirty-seven patients were given intense electro-acupuncture, and 33 other patients received a less intense form of acupuncture. Both groups also received anti-nausea medications. The last group of 34 patients only received anti-nausea medications. In a span of five days, the average number of sickness episodes in the intense acupuncture group was five, 10 in the group that received less intense acupuncture, and 15 in patients who only took conventional medications. This study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The researchers are now recommending that hospitals offer acupuncture to patients suffering from nausea and vomiting.
The effects of Chinese herbal medicine have also been tested in regard to patients who experience side effects of chemotherapy. Researchers from Hong Kong, China, and Eng-lands University of Birmingham set up a study with 120 patients. Each patient had a trained herbalist assessing the patients intake of herbal medicine. Patients were divided in two groups; where one group received Chinese herbal treatment and the other was given inactive placebo. The researchers found that nausea was experienced in 14.6 percent of patients receiving Chinese herbs, and in 35.7 percent of patients in the control group. The researchers suggest that the use of Chinese herbal medicine may “have a significant impact on control of nausea.”
Clinical trials are studying the effects of acupuncture on cancer and symptoms caused by cancer treatment, including weight loss, weakness, headaches, cough, chest pain, digestive problems, fever, anxiety, depression, night sweats, hot flashes, dry mouth, speech problems, and fluid retention in arms or legs. Studies have shown that, for many patients, treatment with acupuncture either relieves symptoms or keeps them from getting worse.
Chemotherapy provides hope to many patients, but it also carries debilitating side effects. Acupuncture can help patients improve their overall health, alleviate pain associated with cancer, and reduce the side effects of chemotherapy.
If you undergo chemotherapy, we suggest you talk to your physician about possible side effects. If you are looking for non-pharmacological therapies, a combination of acupuncture and herbs may be of interest to you.
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