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Acupuncture & Cancer


No-one is untouched by a cancer diagnosis – 1 in 3 people develop cancer. Such a diagnosis may have dramatic consequences. Whilst there are comprehensive cancer services available, people increasingly are drawn to the wisdom of complementary therapies such as acupuncture for support and help. Over a third of cancer patients use complementary therapies during their cancer treatment.

Acupuncture is known to be very effective in relieving the nausea and vomiting of chemotherapy treatment, the tiredness associated with chemotherapy and also the pain which may occur with cancer.

In my experience of over 25 years treating people with acupuncture, I have found that patients can benefit greatly and obtain a lot of support from acupuncture treatments. People report increased energy, reduced adverse effects of their cancer treatments, increased appetite and improvements in general well being.

Practitioners will also discuss appropriate dietary changes which can be of help. Chinese medicine, in general, has several tools by which to offer support. The emphasis is on strengthening and nourishing – the stronger our energy, the better able we are to resist disease and to have reduced adverse effects of treatment. Certainly, a healthy diet applicable to the individual, acupuncture and energy exercises (tai chi or Qi gong) are all of inestimable benefit.

As an example, I want to share the story of Mary who was receiving chemotherapy treatment after an initial diagnosis of breast cancer. She had surgical treatment and this was followed by a course of chemotherapy. I saw her after she had received two of these when she was suffering from severe fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea and belching, loose bowels and general malaise. These are common side effects of this type of treatment. I treated her with acupuncture at 2 weekly intervals. After the first session, her energy improved and her stomach symptoms of nausea and belching had eased.

Subsequent treatments consolidated her progress and she continued her course of chemotherapy symptoms with minimal symptoms. Her appetite was good, bowels returned to normal and she successfully completed her chemotherapy treatment.

Increasingly, cancer clinics are incorporating acupuncture into the services offered to patients. This can only become more common as people become aware of what Chinese Medicine in general, and Acupuncture in particular, have to offer. Arc Cancer Support Centre in Dublin, for example, provide acupuncture as part of their services which are available free of charge.

Article written by
Dr Stephen Gascoigne
Medical Doctor, Acupuncturist, Herbalist
Clinics in Bath and Tetbury, UK and Bandon, Co. Cork, Ireland
Tel: +44 79 88 05 92 01 (UK) or +353 87 92 66 234(Ireland)


  1. Shen  J,  Wenger  N,  Glaspy  J,  et  al.  Electroacupuncture  for  control  of myeloablative chemotherapy-induced emesis. JAMA. 2000;284(21):2755-2761.
  2. Vickers AJ, Straus DJ, Fearon B. Acupuncture for post chemotherapy fatigue: a phase II study. J Clin Oncol. 2004;9(22):1731-1735.
  3. Alimi  D,  Rubino  C,  Pichard-Leandri  E,  et  al.  Analgesic  effect  of  auricular acupuncture  for  cancer  pain;  a  randomized,  blinded,  controlled  trial.  J  Clin Oncol. 2003;21(22):4120-4126.

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