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Acupuncture for Cancer

How Acupuncture May Help You While Undergoing Cancer Treatment

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Updated November 04, 2011

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) that has been practiced for thousands of years. It works by stimulating certain areas of the body by inserting fine needles into the skin. The needles are manipulated manually or through electric therapy. Sounds painful, but those who do receive acupuncture say it is surprisingly painless. Video of an Acupuncture Treatment

The theory behind the basis of acupuncture is that energy (called qi) flows through channels in our body called meridians. According to TCM, each of these channels are connected to a specific organ system. During acupuncture, needles are inserted at various points along the meridians to promote the energy flow.

There are several conditions that are commonly treated by acupuncture, from the common cold to infertility. While it isn't used as a primary treatment for cancer, it has been known to relieve certain side effects of treatment. Acupuncture is considered to be an effective complementary therapy for cancer patients by The National Institutes of Health (NIH).

How Can Acupuncture Help Me During Cancer Treatment?

In this excerpt, provided by UpToDate -- an electronic resource used by many patients and their doctors looking for in-depth medical information -- you can see how acupuncture may benefit those experiencing treatment side effects:

"Acupuncture with electrical stimulation has been found to be useful in treating nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy; women using acupuncture required less medication for nausea and vomiting than women who used no acupuncture. Some trials suggest that acupuncture can reduce cancer pain, although a review of multiple trials showed it to be of no benefit."

Many cancer patients have found relief from nausea and vomiting through acupuncture. Some people find that acupuncture is the only therapy needed to combat this side effect, but other find they need acupuncture along with traditional, Western medicines to get relief.

Paying for Acupuncture

Some people shy away from getting acupuncture because they believe that the costs will be enormous. In truth, acupuncture can be affordable, with initial treatments being $50-$200 in most areas. Follow-up sessions usually cost less. Many health insurance providers cover the cost of acupuncture, depending on the reason why it is needed. Be sure to check your policy before paying out-of-pocket.

Want to learn more? See UpToDate's topic, ""Complementary and alternative medicine treatments (CAM) for cancer" for additional in-depth medical information.

Source:

Ernst, Ezard. "Complementary and alternative medicine treatments (CAM) for cancer". UptoDate. Accessed June 2010.

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