Acupuncture used to effectively treat cancer side effects

Published: Feb. 19, 2018 at 4:44 PM EST
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At 32, Kim Buettner had her whole life planned.

“I knew when I wanted to get married. I knew how long I was going to live in an apartment before we moved to a bigger house. I knew when we were going to have children,” said Buettner. “I had it all figured out.”

However, she hadn’t figured on stage three breast cancer.

“I had a double mastectomy,” she said. “I had chemotherapy, radiation and I went through genetic testing as well.”

The aggressive treatment came with serious long-term side effects.

“I tried a lot of the other options that they gave me, but it just wasn’t working,” she said. “So, one of the treatment suggestions they provided was acupuncture.”

The American Cancer Society says acupuncture is a safe, effective way to relieve some of the most devastating side effects of traditional cancer treatment.

She started with weekly treatments and continues it now once every three weeks.

Acupuncturist Liem Quang Le says it stimulates the body’s natural ability to heal itself.

“I am able to help reduce the side effects that they go through from the fatigue, the body aches, the nausea, the vomiting,” said Dr. Quang Le.

It’s been used for thousands of years as part of traditional Chinese medicine. While it’s no cure, it gives patients a natural way to cope with often-times toxic treatments.

“They just have a better sense of well-being,” said Dr. Quang Le. “They’re able to thrive through the treatment a lot stronger.”

The needles used in acupuncture are tiny, smaller than the ones to give blood. They are strategically placed, triggering nerves to ease pain.

“It sends a signal up to the brain and the brain secretes out opioids, a natural pain killer. Or endorphins,” he said. “It helps shifts your mood or relax you.”

For Buettner, it’s life changing.

“I know that it’s making a difference,” she said.

Acupuncture is safe for all ages and can also help loss of appetite, depression, fatigue and anxiety.

Check with your health care provider to see if it’s covered by insurance.


REPORT #2504

BACKGROUND: The term “acupuncture” describes a family of procedures involving the stimulation of points on the body using a variety of techniques. The acupuncture technique that has been most often studied scientifically involves penetrating the skin with thin, solid, metallic needles that are manipulated by the hands or by electrical stimulation. Practiced in China and other Asian countries for thousands of years, acupuncture is one of the key components of traditional Chinese medicine. Although millions of Americans use acupuncture each year, often for chronic pain, there has been considerable controversy surrounding its value as a therapy and whether it is anything more than placebo. Research exploring a number of possible mechanisms for acupuncture’s pain-relieving effects is ongoing. In fact, there have been extensive studies conducted on acupuncture, especially for back and neck pain, osteoarthritis/knee pain, and headache. It is generally considered safe when performed by an experienced, well-trained practitioner using sterile needles. Improperly performed acupuncture can cause serious side effects.




A LOOK AT ACUPUNCTURE: The FDA gave acupuncture its first U.S. seal of approval when it classified acupuncture needles as medical devices in 1996. Since then, study after study indicates that acupuncture can work. In 2012, a study found acupuncture was better than no acupuncture or simulated acupuncture for the treatment of four chronic pain conditions: back and neck pain, osteoarthritis, chronic headache, and shoulder pain. The National Institutes of Health calls the study "the most rigorous evidence to date that acupuncture may be helpful for chronic pain.” Now, doctors are eager to find a drug-free approach to pain treatment in light of the dangers of opioids, the class of powerful pain medications that includes codeine, morphine, OxyContin, Percocet, and Vicodin. The CDC says doctors should turn to non-drug treatments for chronic pain in cases that don't involve active cancer, palliative care, and end-of-life care.



FUTURE ACUPUNCTURE OPTIONS: Research published by Zhejiang Chinese Medical University finds acupuncture more effective than a powerful sleep drug for improving sleep duration, quality, latency, efficiency, and daytime functioning. Acupuncture achieved a 92 percent total effective rate and the drug, zopiclone, a central nervous system depressant used for helping patients fall asleep and maintaining sleep throughout the night, achieved a 67percent total effective rate. The research indicated that acupuncture is more effective than zopiclone for improving these sleep parameters and is an effective alternative without the adverse effects associated with drug intake. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), these parameters are paramount to an accurate differential diagnosis. Imbalances preventing falling asleep and imbalances causing patients to wake have differing causes within TCM. As a result, acupuncture and herbal medicine modifications are based on how easily patients fall asleep, how often they wake, and what times of day they wake.