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Research into Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine for Cancer Patients

While it’s challenging to evaluate acupuncture using conventional biomedical research protocols, numerous studies suggest acupuncture can help reduce chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, cancer-related fatigue, leucopenia, pain, neuropathy, xerostomia (dry mouth), dysphagia (swallowing difficulties), shortness of breath, hot flashes, lymphedema, anxiety, insomnia, and digestive problems.

For example, a 2015 review published in Scientific Reports (Nature) synthesized results of 23 systematic reviews, finding them to be of satisfactory methodological quality, and showing therapeutic effects from acupuncture in the management of cancer-related fatigue, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting and leucopenia in cancer patients.[i]. Another systematic review found evidence that acupuncture was effective for hot flashes, fatigue, pain and nausea/vomiting in breast cancer patients.[ii]

“Regardless of the specific molecular basis of the effects, acupuncture for nausea/vomiting is a safe and inexpensive treatment that can relieve considerable suffering and may be an especially important option for patients who do not get good symptom control with pharmaceuticals.”  Journal of Clinical Oncology[iii]

TCM oncology is a specialized field of medical study, usually requiring at least 8 years of education and training, with extensive training in herbal medicine. A Scientific Reports overview of systematic reviews focused on Chinese herbal medicine for palliative care found that, “Overall, favorable therapeutic effects in improving quality of life among cancer patients have been reported… No serious adverse effects were reported in all included studies. Evidence indicated that CHM could be considered as an option for improving quality of life among patients receiving palliative care.”.[iv]

Researchers at Yale University have also gotten onboard, conducting a series of studies showing that a standardized form of Huang Qin Tang (an ancient Chinese herbal remedy) reduces the toxic gastrointestinal effects of chemotherapy in colorectal cancer patients.[v] Using a mouse model, they are also honing in on the molecular basis of this action.

Here at Oncology Acupuncture Toronto, we are passionate about high quality research in integrative medicine, blending it with classical Traditional Chinese Medicine diagnostics that have served patients effectively for millennia. We will be expanding this website with more research summaries in the coming months. Contact us to get a free email newsletter with free events, workshops, and the latest research results.

References

[i] Wu, Xinyin, Vincent CH Chung, Edwin P. Hui, Eric TC Ziea, Bacon FL Ng, Robin ST Ho, Kelvin KF Tsoi, Samuel YS Wong, and Justin CY Wu. “Effectiveness of Acupuncture and Related Therapies for Palliative Care of Cancer: Overview of Systematic Reviews.” Scientific Reports 5 (November 26, 2015): 16776. https://doi.org/10.1038/srep16776.

[ii]Dos Santos, S., Hill, N., Morgan, A., Smith, J., Thai, C., Cheifetz, O., 2010. Acupuncture for Treating Common Side Effects Associated With Breast Cancer Treatment: A Systematic Review. Medical Acupuncture 22, 81–97. https://doi.org/10.1089/acu.2009.0730

[iii]Garcia, M. Kay, Jennifer McQuade, Robin Haddad, Sonya Patel, Richard Lee, Peiying Yang, J. Lynn Palmer, and Lorenzo Cohen. “Systematic Review of Acupuncture in Cancer Care: A Synthesis of the Evidence.” Journal of Clinical Oncology 31, no. 7 (March 1, 2013): 952–60. https://doi.org/10.1200/JCO.2012.43.5818.

[iv]Chung, V.C., Wu, X., Hui, E.P., Ziea, E.T., Ng, B.F., Ho, R.S., Tsoi, K.K., Wong, S.Y., Wu, J.C., 2015. Effectiveness of Chinese herbal medicine for cancer palliative care: overview of systematic reviews with meta-analyses. Scientific Reports 5, 18111. https://doi.org/10.1038/srep18111

[v]W. Lam, S. Bussom, F. Guan, Z. Jiang, W. Zhang, E. A. Gullen, S.-H. Liu, Y.-C. Cheng, The four-herb Chinese medicine PHY906 reduces chemotherapy-induced gastrointestinal toxicity. Sci. Transl. Med. 2, 45ra59 (2010). https://doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3001270

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