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Acupuncture for Mesothelioma

Complementary and alternative medicine, or CAM, used in conjunction with traditional cancer treatments is rapidly gaining popularity. CAM practices from traditional Chinese medicine, some used for centuries, are among some of the most popular. Modern researchers have researched many of these practices and concluded they have deserve a place in cancer treatment.

Acupuncture is one of the most common CAM treatments, particularly with mesothelioma and other types of cancer. Researched extensively, there is sufficient proof this practice can alleviate symptoms, although there is no evidence acupuncture treats the disease itself. When combined with conventional treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation, there is mounting evidence acupuncture helps patients feel better, allowing improved quality of life.

acupuncture for mesothelioma

What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture was commonly used in ancient times and is important in Traditional Chinese Medicine. According to tradition, acupuncture balances the life force or energy that courses through all living things. This energy, called qi, is believed to flow through the body along lines or paths called meridians. The aim of traditional acupuncture is to rebalance this energy flow and help the patient’s qi flow correctly through the body.

Inserting thin needles into the skin at specific pressure points along these meridians is believed to correct energy imbalance. In addition to the small needles, acupuncture may be practiced with pressure from fingers, like massage, or with electrical stimulation. In western medicine, it is believed acupuncture works to stimulate the body’s nerves, connective tissues, and muscles, helping stimulate blood flow. The result is a decrease in pain, so it is understandable pain is the most common symptom treated with acupuncture.

Acupuncture in Cancer Treatment

As CAM becomes more popular with patients, health care centers, hospitals, and doctors are becoming more open to traditional medicine. Some cancer treatment facilities f even have acupuncture practitioners on staff. It is important to remember acupuncture is not  a replacement for cancer treatments. No professional practitioner should claim acupuncture can cure any type of cancer. If you decide to try acupuncture, be sure to inform your doctors. Also, make sure you see a qualified and reputable practitioner. If you do, you could experience some of acupuncture’s benefits, including pain relief.

Pain Management

The National Institutes of Health began investigating acupuncture as a valid CAM strategy in 1997. These studies have proven acupuncture has real and proven benefits. One of these benefits is a reduction in pain. With mesothelioma patients may experience pain from tumors or from conventional treatment. Research suggests acupuncture can help manage that pain.

In one study, cancer patients received acupuncture treatments. Most of those patients were able to discontinue pain medication or reduce the amount they needed. Overall, research into pain reduction through acupuncture found the practice likely to reduce pain for most patients.

Relieving Nausea

One of the most common and uncomfortable side effects of chemotherapy is nausea. Chemotherapy, a common conventional cancer treatment can cause vomiting, appetite loss, and weight loss. Nausea is uncomfortable and it can lead to dangerous malnutrition. Some of the strongest research evidence of acupuncture for cancer patients shows it can effectively reduce chemotherapy-related nausea and resulting complications. A review of several studies found one specific pressure point targeted during acupuncture treatment highly effective in relieving nausea.

Reducing Fatigue

Fatigue, like nausea, is a common complaint for chemotherapy patients. Acupuncture may be effective for boosting energy and reducing fatigue in patients suffering from mesothelioma and other cancers.  227 patients received acupuncture treatments in one important study. Researchers then compared these patients with cancer patients receiving only traditional care. The results showed patents receiving acupuncture were less fatigued, both physically and mentally. Those patients also felt less anxiety and depression and reported a better quality of life.

Relieving Dry Mouth

Dry mouth is another common side effect of cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation. Dry mouth is uncomfortable and increases risk for infections in the gums and mouth. Research has found acupuncture can relieve dry mouth more effectively than traditional symptom management. Patients receiving acupuncture in these studies had greater saliva flow. Patients treated with a placebo in the form of “fake” acupuncture also experienced dry mouth relief. These findings suggests there may be a placebo effect with acupuncture. In this study, patients seemed to expect d acupuncture to aid in saliva flow. It worked because they believed it would.

Improving Mood and Sleep

Many mesothelioma patients suffer from symptoms of mood disorders, including depression, anxiety, and stress. These conditions often make sleeping more difficult. However, acupuncture may help improve both mood and sleep. Some studies suggest patients felt relief from negative feelings, felt more relaxed, and slept more restfully after receiving acupuncture. Some pressure points used in acupuncture may help relax the nervous system or reduce the amount of adrenaline produced in the body.

Acupuncture is not traditionally included in western medicine. However, traditional Chinese medicine has included acupuncture for thousands of years. Modern, western practitioners are only starting to realize the power of this ancient practice. It is not a treatment for cancer. However, acupuncture is proving to be a beneficial treatment for mesothelioma symptoms and treatment side effects.

When practiced by a trained and qualified practitioner, acupuncture is a safe compliment to conventional treatment methods. There is little reason mesothelioma patients should not give acupuncture a try.  If acupuncture interests you as a compliment to your treatment, talk to your medical team. Be sure to find a practitioner with cancer patient experience.   You may find relief from symptoms and a greater quality of life.

Page Edited by Dave Foster

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Dave has been a mesothelioma Patient Advocate for over 10 years. He consistently attends all major national and international mesothelioma meetings. In doing so, he is able to stay on top of the latest treatments, clinical trials, and research results. He also personally meets with mesothelioma patients and their families and connects them with the best medical specialists and legal representatives available. Connect with Patient Advocate Dave Foster

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