ACUPUNCTURE & CANCER PAIN
Pain in cancer patients and survivors is very common and can be caused by the cancer itself invading organs, soft tissues (nerves and blood vessels) or bones, or the treatments for cancer, including chemotherapy, radiotherapy, hormones and surgery. Multiple sites may be affected and multiple mechanisms are at play including inflammatory, neuropathic, ischemic (restricted or reduced blood circulation) and compression pain.
Bone pain due to metastatic cancer is often particularly severe, unremitting and poorly controlled. Patients with bone pain often require high doses of painkillers, which are often associated with undesirable side-effects. Moderate to severe pain is experienced by 40% of individuals with early or intermediate stage cancer and 90% of individuals with advanced cancer. It is estimated that up to 70% of all patients with cancer pain do not receive adequate pain relief, diminishing their quality of life in terms of both physical and psychological well being.
Studies have shown that acupuncture can significantly reduce cancer-related pain, particularly malignancy related pain and post-surgery pain. A 2016 systematic review that evaluated the effects of acupuncture reported significant relief, and recommended that acupuncture be included as part of a multimodal approach in treating cancer.
Some conventional medicine hospitals, such as the Mater Hospital in Sydney, in fact offer an oncology acupuncture program where acupuncture is provided alongside conventional cancer treatment to support recovery and minimise side-effects, as well as support mental well being, improve physical and emotional resilience, and manage pain.
Acupuncture practitioners take a holistic approach to cancer care. This means that not only will your symptoms be considered, but your lifestyle, emotional state, and overall health. Your whole being will be taken into account, not just the cancer.