Breast Cancer Patients: Why Acupuncture Is Alternative Therapy You Can't Afford To Miss!

For a woman, there are no two words that evoke the type of fear that breast cancer does.  As shocking as a diagnosis can be, it is also one that conjures up more questions and emotions than many people are prepared to deal with.  Although modern science has come a long way in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer, more-and-more women are also turning to medical remedies of the past to aid in their courageous fight.

In recent years, acupuncture has become increasingly popular for relieving the stress and sickness associated with chemotherapy. If you, or someone you know, are going through this difficult process then what follows is a comprehensive guide to a unique, alternative therapy that may provide some much-needed relief. With so many breast cancer patients, and survivors, swearing by it, it's an option you can't afford to overlook.

Acupuncture: The "Needle Prick" Solution For Breast Cancer Symptoms

Said to have originated centuries ago, acupuncture is often associated with Traditional Chinese Medicine: the basics of which state that the body is partially made up of energy called Qi (pronounced 'chee'). Qi is said to control our basic abilities to think, feel, work and move. When the flow of Qi becomes unbalanced or blocked, due to physical or emotional stress, the result can lead to illness.

Practitioners of acupuncture treat patients by working tiny filiform (thread-like) needles into points along the body that allow the Qi to flow freely, restoring your natural balance.

Acupuncture is considered beneficial for cancer treatment because it has been said to relieve common maladies like:

  • Nausea
  • Hot flashes
  • Stress and anxiety

With all of the drugs associated with chemotherapy, those considering acupuncture should also know that:

  • There are virtually no side effects to the therapy.
  • It is a safe way to detoxify the body in order to better process other treatment medications.
  • Studies have shown that it can decrease the sickness commonly associated with the breast cancer medication, tamoxifen.

How Does Acupuncture Actually Work For Breast Cancer Patients?

Despite years of research, there are still no clear answers that fully explain how acupuncture heals the body. Many theories have been formulated which include:

  • The Gate Theory of Pain: Proposed in 1965, this is the idea that very small nerve fibers carry pain stimuli through a 'gate mechanism'. To prevent the transmission of pain, larger nerve fibers can be stimulated (through acupuncture) to inhibit, or stop, the entire process. It has also been speculated that the 'gate mechanism' itself can be shut off by using acupuncture to trick the body into releasing endogenous opiods. These are pain-relieving chemicals that the body naturally creates in response to harmful stimulus. Once they are in the body, they shut off access to the substantia gelatinosa part of the spinal cord; the area that allows pain signals to be sent to the brain.
  • Endorphins: Another theory focuses on the effect that morphine-derived drugs can have on the body. Endorphins are a morphine-like substance that is found in the central nervous system that the body creates when trying to block pain.

Does Acupuncture Hurt?

It is not uncommon for breast cancer patients to be concerned with adding additional pain to their regime. "Chemotherapy is hard enough, so what will be the benefit of poking myself full of needles?"

What most people don't realize is that the needles used for acupuncture treatment are far different than the kind most have experienced in hospitals or doctor's offices.

  • Acupuncture needles are much smaller than standard hypodermic needles.
  • They are solid, not hollow, and do not draw blood.
  • Patients have said that the prick of an acupuncture needle is less painful than plucking a hair.
  • The sensation that occurs once a needle is inserted can range from nothing at all, to a tingling sensation, numbness, or even electrical pulsations.

How Much Does Acupuncture Treatment Cost?

A practitioner will be able to inform you about how much each session will cost, but typically a first visit will cost anywhere from $50 to $120 dollars. Subsequent visits are generally less.

  • Acupuncture that is performed by a physician may cost more, but are sometimes classified as CAM (Complimentary and Alternative Medicine) therapies.
  • Some insurance companies will cover the cost of CAM therapy, so you will want to check with your provider to be sure.

Breast Cancer Facts for 2007

According to a 2007 fact sheet prepared by the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women, accounting for more than 1 in 4 cancers diagnosed in U.S. women.

  • In 2007 alone, experts anticipated 178,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer being diagnosed.
  • Experts estimate that nearly 40,460 women will die from breast cancer in 2007.

Reexamine Your Breast Cancer Treatment Options

Because everyone is different, not all therapies will be right for you or your loved one. If a person doesn't respond to acupuncture therapy, it doesn't mean there aren't other alternatives to consider.

Tai Chi, herbal remedies, and trigger-point massage are just a few things that breast cancer patients have used to coincide with modern medicine.

The more knowledge you accumulate, the stronger your defense arsenal will be.