Acupuncture and Cancer Care

As acupuncture continues to gain acceptance in the West, it is increasingly being used in conjunction with western conventional medicine to treat a range of conditions, cancer being one of the most prominent. Acupuncture has received much attention for its use in treating cancer pain, post-operative and chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.

Acupuncture’s use in cancer patients has been recommended by the American Cancer Society (ACS) for the treatment of cancer and treatment-related symptoms. 

At New Leaf Acupuncture, Dublin, we offer a gentle treatment for cancer care using fine Japanese acupuncture needles, as well as moxa and cupping.

Please note that acupuncture may be used for the above symptoms of cancer, and the side effects of conventional cancer treatments, but it is not used to treat the cancer itself.

How acupuncture can help

  • Pain
  • Fatigue
  • Xerostomia (dry mouth)
  • Leukopaenia
  • Vasomotor symptoms
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Joint pain
  • Oedema
  • Breathlessness

In general, acupuncture stimulates the nervous system and causes the release of neurochemical messenger molecules. The resulting biochemical changes influence the body’s homeostatic mechanisms, thus promoting physical and emotional well-being.

Research has shown that acupuncture treatment may specifically benefit symptoms associated with cancer and its treatment by:

  • Acting on areas of the brain known to reduce sensitivity to pain and stress, as well as promoting relaxation and deactivating the ‘analytical’ brain, which is responsible for anxiety and worry (Hui 2010; Hui 2009);
  • Regulating neurotransmitters (or their modulators) and hormones such as serotonin, noradrenaline, neurotransmitters, GABA, neuropeptide Y and ACTH; hence altering the brains’s mood chemistry to help to combat negative affective states (Lee 2009; Cheng 2009; Zhou 2008);
  • Increasing the release of adenosine, which has antinociceptive properties (Goldman 2010);
  • Improving muscle stiffness and joint mobility by increasing local microcirculation (Komori 2009), which aids dispersal of swelling;
  • Stimulating production of endogenous opioids that affect the autonomic nervous system (Arranz 2007). Stress activates the sympathetic nervous system, while acupuncture can activate the opposing parasympathetic nervous system, which initiates the relaxation response;
  • Reversing pathological changes in levels of inflammatory cytokines (Arranz 2007);
  • Reducing inflammation, by promoting release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors (Kavoussi 2007, Zijlstra 2003);
  • Reversing stress-induced changes in behaviour and biochemistry (Kim 2009);
  • Increasing levels of T lymphocyte subsets such as CD(3) , CD(4), and CD(8) , as well as Natural Killer cells (Zhao 2010);
  • Relieving nausea and vomiting by regulating gastric myo-electrical activity (Streitberger 2006) , modulating the actions of the vagal nerve and autonomic nervous system (Huang 2005), and regulating vestibular activities in the cerebellum (Streitberger 2006);
  • Reducing vasopressin-induced nausea and vomiting and suppressing retrograde peristaltic contractions (Tatewaki 2005).


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