Breast cancer diagnosis is a phrase that no one wants to hear for themselves or their loved ones, but unfortunately, it is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in women in the US. Men should be included here too since 1 in 100 breast cancer diagnoses are in men. Since it's breast cancer awareness month, let's look at the ways that acupuncture and Chinese medicine can help support you through breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. There are links within each explanation to research that supports acupuncture use during breast cancer treatment. It is increasingly common to have integrative therapy within cancer treatment centers that advocate and encourage the use of acupuncture during treatment to best support those under their care.
Here are three ways acupuncture can support breast cancer treatments:
1. Mental Health Support - It is really common and understandable that anxiety and depression can come along with a cancer diagnosis. Acupuncture is helpful in regulating the nervous system to reduce sympathetic nervous system response. This helps to improve relaxation, reduce anxiety and support mental calmness. It also helps with depression by lifting qi (raising your spirits), and moving qi (reducing the feeling of stuckness). I often tell my patients that relaxation is my favorite side effect of acupuncture treatments!
2. Improve the side effects from treatment - There is no questioning that chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery are all hard on the body and can come with unpleasant side effects. Acupuncture can help promote healing and improve circulation following surgery. It can help improve tissue healing that can result from radiation. In terms of chemotherapy, acupuncture can reduce nausea and vomiting, improve fatigue, improve sleep, and reduce night sweats and hot flashes.
3. Support for immune system function - There are so many studies that show the effects of acupuncture on the immune system. Acupuncture can have immune system modulating effects that could help reduce the likelihood of acquiring infections as a result of a weakened immune state from chemotherapy or radiation treatment. Moxibustion can help increase the production of red and white blood cells to improve immune system function and restore what is lost in treatment.
It is also so important that caregivers get care too, so I definitely encourage loved ones and caregivers to get acupuncture to help support their emotional health and give themselves an opportunity for rest and care.