Acupuncture News

Acupuncture’s Emerging Role in Integrative Oncology

Over the past few years, I have been concentrating my studies on using acupuncture as a component of a more comprehensive treatment and long-term care model for cancer patients and survivors. The published research that Dr. Phillips, Dr. Hand, and I conducted at the University of South Carolina explored the therapeutic benefits of acupuncture on oncology-related symptoms and treatment application models that could be useful in more extensive clinical settings.

Recently I completed two courses offered by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center on Oncology Acupuncture and Integrative Oncology. It is encouraging to see how valuable a multi-modality and multi-disciplinary approach is for patients and practitioners. Acupuncture is becoming an established part of medical oncology protocols in many centers worldwide.

Managing the Symptoms of Cancer Treatment

To be clear, acupuncture is not a treatment method for cancer. Its application is adjunctive to the models of care offered by major oncology centers worldwide and its use is quickly growing.

In the United States, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, MD Anderson Cancer Center, and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have had integrative oncology programs for nearly 20 years. Acupuncture is a major component of the treatment protocol provided by these institutions. A vast majority of the National Cancer Institute’s designated cancer centers now offer or recommend acupuncture to manage symptoms related to cancer treatment.

Acupuncture’s Role in Integrative Care

Acupuncture in integrative care is fundamentally different than acupuncture as an alternative treatment. Integrative care is patient-centered and evidence-informed care. It forms a comprehensive model that includes valid treatment modalities, mind-body practices, lifestyle practices, and conventional cancer treatment. Patients and family members are encouraged participants in all phases of treatment and learning through survivorship.

Guidelines published by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network recommend using acupuncture in palliative care and survivorship for:

  • Pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Hot Flashes

New research shows acupuncture can provide benefit in many other areas, too, including:

  • Insomnia
  • Peripheral Neuropathy
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Xerostomia

The Future of Treatment

Evidence-based integrative modalities, such as acupuncture, are enhancing the quality and breadth of the treatment and care provided to cancer patients. It also has a positive impact on the system and providers caring for those individuals. The response to the treatment model and patient gratification is impressive.

I have always been optimistic regarding the future of our medical care and am even more so now. Incorporating the best parts of other healthcare systems sensibly into our existing ones offers all of us a brighter and healthier tomorrow.