Integrative Medicine

Oncology acupuncture

Acupuncture is an integrative medicine therapy that has been proven to help with pain, improve well-being, and reduce the side effects of cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.

Integrative medicine combines conventional (standard) medical treatment with complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies that have been shown to be safe and to work. CAM therapies treat the mind, body and spirit.

Through SCCA Integrative Medicine, acupuncture can be part of your cancer treatment.

Chemotherapy Treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. It may be given alone or with other treatments. Treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. Chemotherapy may be given by mouth, injection, infusion or on the skin, depending on the type and stage of the cancer being treated. It may be given alone or with other treatments, such as surgery, radiation therapy or biologic therapy. Integrative medicine Combines conventional (standard) medical treatment with complementary and alternative (CAM) therapies that have been shown to be safe and to work. CAM therapies treat the mind, body and spirit. Side effects A problem that occurs when treatment affects healthy tissues or organs. Some side effects of cancer treatment are nausea, vomiting, fatigue, pain, decreased blood cell counts, hair loss and mouth sores.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

What is oncology acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a practice of traditional East Asian medicine. It involves putting very thin needles in your skin at different points on your body.

The acupuncturists at SCCA’s Integrative Medicine program are experts who use the latest research to help them decide how to use acupuncture safely and effectively during and after cancer care. This is called oncology acupuncture.

Integrative medicine Combines conventional (standard) medical treatment with complementary and alternative (CAM) therapies that have been shown to be safe and to work. CAM therapies treat the mind, body and spirit.
How does acupuncture work?

According to traditional East Asian medicine, acupuncture points are located at specific places along channels in your body. These channels connect all of your body parts and organs. Qi (pronounced “chee”) is believed to flow in this network of channels. Qi is the vital substance that flows throughout your body and provides the necessary elements that help your body function.

According to East Asian medicine, when qi is blocked, you may feel pain and other symptomsAcupuncture helps improve the flow and balance of qi, which can lessen symptoms.

Studies have shown that acupuncture:

  • Releases chemicals in the brain
  • Sends messages through your nerves
  • Increases blood circulation
  • Helps reduce inflammation, which may also explain why acupuncture helps with pain.
Symptom A physical or mental problem that a person experiences that may indicate a disease or condition. Symptoms cannot be seen and do not show up on medical tests. A physical or mental problem that a person experiences that may indicate a disease or condition. Symptoms cannot be seen and do not show up on medical tests. Some examples of symptoms are headache, fatigue, nausea and pain.
What are the benefits of acupuncture?

Studies have shown that acupuncture can help with:

  • Pain after cancer treatment or surgery
  • Pain related to cancer or cancer treatment
  • Joint pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Neuropathy (numbness, tingling or pain)
  • Constipation
  • Hot flashes
  • Dry mouth
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Fatigue (feeling tired)
  • Headaches
  • Anxiety and stress management
Neuropathy A numbness, tingling or pain from nerve damage caused by a tumor or by treatment.
What are the risks of acupuncture?

The risks of acupuncture are low when it is done by a licensed, experienced acupuncturist. The needles used in each treatment are sterile and single-use. In general, most patients who get acupuncture do not have problems during their treatment.

Common side effects may include soreness and minor bleeding or bruising where the needles were put in. Our integrative medicine providers will go over your medical history and labs before each treatment to decide if acupuncture is right for you.

Our acupuncturists will ask if you have:

  • Low white blood cell count
  • Low platelet count
  • Pacemakers or other implanted devices
  • Lymphedema (buildup of fluid under your skin)

They will also ask if you are pregnant.

Integrative medicine Combines conventional (standard) medical treatment with complementary and alternative (CAM) therapies that have been shown to be safe and to work. CAM therapies treat the mind, body and spirit. Lymphedema A condition in which extra lymph fluid builds up in tissues and causes swelling. It may occur in an arm or leg if lymph vessels are blocked, damaged or removed by surgery. Platelet A tiny, disc-shaped piece of a cell that is found in the blood and spleen. Platelets help form blood clots to slow or stop bleeding and to help wounds heal. A tiny, disc-shaped piece of a cell that is found in the blood and spleen. Platelets are pieces of very large cells in the bone marrow called megakaryocytes. They help form blood clots to slow or stop bleeding and to help wounds heal. Having too many or too few platelets, or having platelets that do not work as they should, can cause problems. Checking the number of platelets in the blood may help diagnose certain diseases or conditions. Side effects A problem that occurs when treatment affects healthy tissues or organs. Some side effects of cancer treatment are nausea, vomiting, fatigue, pain, decreased blood cell counts, hair loss and mouth sores. White blood cell A type of blood cell that is made in the bone marrow and found in the blood and lymph tissue. White blood cells are part of the body’s immune system and help the body fight infection and other diseases. A type of blood cell that is made in the bone marrow and found in the blood and lymph tissue. White blood cells are part of the body’s immune system. They help the body fight infection and other diseases. Types of white blood cells include granulocytes (neutrophils, eosinophils and basophils), monocytes and lymphocytes (T cells and B cells). Checking the number of white blood cells in the blood is usually part of a complete blood cell (CBC) test. It may be used to look for conditions such as infection, inflammation, allergies and leukemia. Also called leukocyte and WBC.

What to expect

Before you begin treatment with us

You do not need to do anything special before an acupuncture treatment. Most people wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes with pants that can be easily raised to their knees.

You will need a referral from an SCCA provider to schedule acupuncture.

Not all insurance plans cover acupuncture services. If you have insurance, Patient Financial Services will contact your insurance provider to check your coverage and help you understand your benefits. They can be reached at (800) 304-1763. If your insurance does not cover acupuncture, you can choose to pay for your treatments on your own.

What to expect at your treatment

You and your acupuncturist will talk about your treatment plan. A typical course of acupuncture often involves weekly treatments for eight weeks. Some conditions may need more than eight weeks of treatment to get long-term results. If this is the case, we will give you a list of referrals for acupuncturists in the community.

The first appointment is 60 minutes. Please be here 15 minutes early for your first appointment. Each follow-up appointment is about 45 minutes. Each person may react differently to acupuncture. You could feel relief from symptoms right away, or you may need more than one treatment before you notice a change.

If your symptoms don't start getting better after five treatments, your provider will talk with you about if acupuncture is right for you at this time. During treatment, we recommend that you keep a journal of your symptoms to help you notice and track changes over time.

Symptom A physical or mental problem that a person experiences that may indicate a disease or condition. Symptoms cannot be seen and do not show up on medical tests. A physical or mental problem that a person experiences that may indicate a disease or condition. Symptoms cannot be seen and do not show up on medical tests. Some examples of symptoms are headache, fatigue, nausea and pain. Treatment plan A detailed plan with information about a patient’s disease, the goal of treatment, the treatment options for the disease and the possible side effects and expected length of treatment. A detailed plan with information about a patient’s disease, the goal of treatment, the treatment options for the disease and the possible side effects and expected length of treatment. A treatment plan may also include information about how much the treatment is likely to cost and about regular follow-up care after treatment ends.

Day of your treatment

Your acupuncturist will put very thin, sterile needles into specific places on your body, which are called acupuncture points. Your acupuncturist may put needles in a body part that is different from where your symptoms are. For example, they may put a needle in your hand to help reduce headaches. This is normal.

Frequently used acupuncture points are located on your lower arms (below the elbows) and on your lower legs (below the knees). Your acupuncturist will tell you the general areas of the planned treatment and if you need to take off any clothing. A gown or sheet will be provided if you need to take off your clothing so your acupuncturist can reach the acupuncture points.

Between 10 to 20 needles are used in a typical treatment. When the needles are put in, you may feel a mild pinching, but it is not painful. You may feel a mild aching sensation or pressure when a needle gets to the right place. Your practitioner may gently move the needles after putting them in or apply mild electrical pulses to the needles using a device. The needles stay in place for 20 to 30 minutes while you lie down and relax.

Symptom A physical or mental problem that a person experiences that may indicate a disease or condition. Symptoms cannot be seen and do not show up on medical tests. A physical or mental problem that a person experiences that may indicate a disease or condition. Symptoms cannot be seen and do not show up on medical tests. Some examples of symptoms are headache, fatigue, nausea and pain.
References

Deng, G., Hou, B. L., Holodny, A. I., & Cassileth, B. R. (2008). Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) changes and saliva production associated with acupuncture at LI-2 acupuncture point: a randomized controlled study. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine8(1), 1-7.

Ernst, E., & White, A. R. (2001). Prospective studies of the safety of acupuncture: a systematic review. The American journal of medicine110(6), 481-485.

Eshkevari, L., Egan, R., Phillips, D., Tilan, J., Carney, E., Azzam, N., ... & Mulroney, S. E. (2012). Acupuncture at ST36 prevents chronic stress-induced increases in neuropeptide Y in rat. Experimental Biology and Medicine237(1), 18-23.

Harris, R. E., Zubieta, J. K., Scott, D. J., Napadow, V., Gracely, R. H., & Clauw, D. J. (2009). Traditional Chinese acupuncture and placebo (sham) acupuncture are differentiated by their effects on μ-opioid receptors (MORs). Neuroimage47(3), 1077-1085.

Höxtermann, M. D., Haller, H., Aboudamaah, S., Bachemir, A., Dobos, G., Cramer, H., & Voiss, P. (2022). Safety of acupuncture in oncology: A systematic review and meta‐analysis of randomized controlled trials. Cancer.

Lu, W., & Rosenthal, D. S. (2010). Recent advances in oncology acupuncture and safety considerations in practice. Current treatment options in oncology11(3), 141-146.

Lu, W., Dean-Clower, E., Doherty-Gilman, A., & Rosenthal, D. S. (2008). The value of acupuncture in cancer care. Hematology/oncology clinics of North America22(4), 631-648.

MacPherson, H., Thomas, K., Walters, S., & Fitter, M. (2001). A prospective survey of adverse events and treatment reactions following 34,000 consultations with professional acupuncturists. Acupuncture in medicine19(2), 93-102.

Mao, J. J., Bowman, M. A., Xie, S. X., Bruner, D., DeMichele, A., & Farrar, J. T. (2015). Electroacupuncture versus gabapentin for hot flashes among breast cancer survivors: a randomized placebo-controlled trial. Journal of Clinical Oncology33(31), 3615.

Meng, X., Zhang, Y., Li, A., Xin, J., Lao, L., Ren, K., ... & Zhang, R. X. (2011). The effects of opioid receptor antagonists on electroacupuncture-produced anti-allodynia/hyperalgesia in rats with paclitaxel-evoked peripheral neuropathyBrain research1414, 58-65.

Pomeranz, B., & Chiu, D. (1976). Naloxone blockade of acupuncture analgesia: endorphin implicated. Life sciences19(11), 1757-1762.

 

Schröder, S., Liepert, J., Remppis, A., & Greten, J. H. (2007). Acupuncture treatment improves nerve conduction in peripheral neuropathy. European journal of neurology14(3), 276-281.

Torres-Rosas, R., Yehia, G., Peña, G., Mishra, P., del Rocio Thompson-Bonilla, M., Moreno-Eutimio, M. A., ... &

Ulloa, L. (2014). Dopamine mediates vagal modulation of the immune system by electroacupuncture. Nature medicine20(3), 291-295.

White, A. (2004). A cumulative review of the range and incidence of significant adverse events associated with acupuncture. Acupuncture in Medicine22(3), 122-133. Ernst, E., & White, A. R. (2001). Prospective studies of the safety of acupuncture: a systematic review. The American journal of medicine110(6), 481-485.

Yoo, S. S., Teh, E. K., Blinder, R. A., & Jolesz, F. A. (2004). Modulation of cerebellar activities by acupuncture stimulation: evidence from fMRI study. Neuroimage22(2), 932-940.

Imaging In medicine, a process that makes pictures of areas inside the body. Imaging uses methods such as X-rays (high-energy radiation), ultrasound (high-energy sound waves) and radio waves. Neuropathy A numbness, tingling or pain from nerve damage caused by a tumor or by treatment.
References

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