During treatment for breast cancer, some patients receive acupuncture to manage side effects and improve quality of life. Acupuncture is an ancient medical practice which involves the gentle insertion of small needles that stimulate specific therapeutic points on the body to restore harmony and balance.
While acupuncture is often associated with the treatment of musculoskeletal pain and pain control in general, it actually has very broad applications that may benefit patients getting treatment for breast cancer. For example, acupuncture may be helpful in pain management for patients, such as post-surgical pain or joint pain associated with treatments.
One of the most widely accepted indications for acupuncture for breast cancer patients is to help prevent and decrease nausea, including chemotherapy-induced nausea and post-surgical nausea. Additionally, acupuncture may also help to decrease discomfort, tightness and heaviness associated with lymphedema.
Some other potential areas that acupuncture may offer assistance include helping to decrease hot flashes and menopausal symptoms and reduce xerostomia (dry mouth). Lastly, acupuncture may help promote relaxation and restore an overall sense of well-being, although these benefits are more difficult to substantiate with research.
Acupuncture treatments can be used alongside patients’ conventional breast cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy. There is minimal concern of negative side effects or risks, and the incidence of adverse reactions associated with acupuncture is generally rare.
Research continues to develop in this area, providing a better understanding of the role that acupuncture can play in supporting patients undergoing breast cancer treatment.
Learn more about acupuncture during cancer treatment.