Acupuncture Can Reduce Side Effects of Breast Cancer Treatment

June 8, 2015 Updated: June 9, 2015

Acupuncture is a wonderful complementary therapy for patients undergoing treatment for breast cancer, both during treatment and after.

A diagnosis of breast cancer turns your world upside down, and the medical procedures used to combat the disease can produce difficult and painful side effects. In fact, some women discontinue treatment because of the side effects.

However, not all treatment requires further suffering. Acupuncture can reduce pain, nausea, and fatigue, alleviate stress, and improve your quality of life, in addition to easing other side effects caused by harsh cancer treatments.

Increasingly, researchers are studying acupuncture’s effectiveness at providing relief from various symptoms related to breast cancer and its treatment, including joint pain and stiffness, which is one common side effect of breast cancer treatment.

(JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
Acupuncture can reduce pain, nausea, and fatigue, alleviate stress, and improve your quality of life. (JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)

A study published in the European Journal of Cancer provided additional evidence that acupuncture can be very beneficial to women undergoing treatment for breast cancer. At the University of Pennsylvania, researchers conducted a randomized controlled eight-week study using electro-acupuncture with postmenopausal breast cancer patients who were taking Aromatase inhibitors (AIs) and, as a result, experiencing joint pain.

Aromatase inhibitors are a common hormonal therapy used to treat certain types of breast cancer. Unfortunately, as many as half of the patients taking AIs experience joint pain and about 20 percent will stop the treatment due to the painful side effects. 

After 10 acupuncture treatments, patients had a 43 percent decrease in their pain. 

This is not the first study to show positive results when acupuncture is combined with cancer treatment. A similar study, published in 2010 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, also showed that acupuncture helped relieve pain and stiffness in breast cancer patients being treated with hormone therapies.

Modern treatment of breast cancer offers the best combination of Eastern and Western medicine. These partnerships raise the standard of care for women who must use their resources to cope with their disease and its treatment.

Jennifer Dubowsky, LAc, practices acupuncture in Chicago. She earned her Bachelor of Science in kinesiology from the University of Illinois and Master of Science in oriental medicine from Southwest Acupuncture College in Colorado. She completed an internship at the Sino-Japanese Friendship Hospital in Beijing. For more information, visit TCM007.com

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