Acupuncture can be an effective supplement to medical treatment for all types of cancer, helping to alleviate patients’ symptoms and some side effects. It is a drug-free way to ease pain, nausea and fatigue, and can also stimulate the immune response needed for healing.
This time-honored practice also provides relief for some of the emotional issues – stress, anxiety and depression – that often accompany cancer diagnosis and treatment. Acupuncture is part of a holistic, or whole body, approach to care here at the Patricia Lynch Cancer Center at Holy Name.
How Acupuncture Works
In the traditional Chinese practice, slim sterile needles are inserted under the skin at strategic locations on the body and gently manipulated manually to stimulate blood flow and internal energy.
The insertion points are sometimes remote from the area of pain or discomfort but correspond to meridians, or channels, that feed those areas with energy. The technique improves blood circulation, helping with overall well-being and providing deep relaxation.
The technique can be done in conjunction with medical treatment for all types of cancers and all ages. Patients generally feel a slight pinch with the insertion of the needles if they feel anything at all.
Sessions take about 45 minutes, including the insertion of needles. Most patients benefit from at least one session a week. The effects of acupuncture tend to be cumulative, and the best results can be accomplished by frequent treatments at the initial stage. For patients undergoing chemotherapy, we recommend starting acupuncture sessions early in the process to reduce the side effects of the treatment. Relief may take several sessions, but many patients experience less anxiety and stress, and they have increased energy.
Improved Quality of Life
Acupuncture can help with side effects from chemotherapy, radiation therapy and/or surgery. There is significant research evidence that it can relieve the nausea and vomiting resulting from chemotherapy, and it has helped some patients with post-surgical gastrointestinal issues. We’ve also found it helpful for the neuropathy – weakness, numbness and pain in the extremities – that many cancer patients experience. It also can reduce hot flashes and dry mouth.
Following acupuncture sessions, patients have reported that they are more relaxed and have improved sleep and overall quality of life. For those who have had surgery it can help return their range of motion and flexibility while easing residual pain.
Acupuncture is natural and based on ancient principles. Unlike pain or anxiety medications, there are no side effects. Many patients have found it to be an effective complement to their traditional treatments.
Dr. Dorothy Chae, a member of Holy Name Medical Center's Pain Management Division, is board-certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). She received her PhD in oriental medicine from American Liberty University and a master’s degree in professional studies in acupuncture and oriental medicine from Mercy College. She is fluent in English and Korean.
For an appointment with Dr. Chae, please call 201-945-0022. Acupuncture sessions are held at Holy Name Medical Center in the Patricia Lynch Cancer Center. She also practices at Evergreen Acupuncture on Sylvan Avenue in Englewood.