Acupuncture and Cancer

Depending on how it’s classified, there are potentially over 200 types of cancer. Genes within each cell tell it when to grow, divide, work and die. If these instructions get mixed up our cells don’t die when they should, or they may grow and divide out of control. As more and more of these abnormal cells grow and divide, they may form a lump or mass in the body known as a tumour. Cancerous tumours can grow into nearby tissues and spread to other parts of the body. Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in Canada.

Acupuncture for pain

Acupuncture is recognized as a useful complementary therapy by the Canadian Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute in the US. Acupuncture is very effective for managing pain related to tumours, surgery, and inflammation as well as postoperative pain and cancer treatment-induced inflammation and pain. We’ve written here and here about how well community acupuncture works for treating pain. Patients who receive acupuncture are sometimes able to use lower doses of painkillers and therefore are less prone to experiencing side effects from their pain medication. And you don’t have to worry about interactions between treatments, because acupuncture is safe to use alongside your conventional cancer treatment.

Acupuncture for the immune system

A lot of cancer drugs are pretty hard on the immune system and can make it difficult to fight off colds and infections. Acupuncture is a great way to support the immune system, help fight off colds and flus, and to treat any lingering infections.

Acupuncture for side effects of cancer treatment

Nausea and Vomiting: Nausea and vomiting are some of the worst side effects suffered by cancer patients receiving chemotherapy, and acupuncture is highly effective at reducing the intensity and frequency of nausea and vomiting.

Difficulty Swallowing: Radiation treatments to the head and neck commonly cause dry mouth as well as pain and swelling in the mouth and throat, making it difficult and uncomfortable to swallow. Acupuncture has been shown to decrease these side effects, allowing the patient to swallow normally and reducing the pain and swelling in the mouth and throat.

Hot Flashes: Many people undergoing hormonal treatment for breast cancer or prostate cancer experience hot flashes that disrupt sleep. Acupuncture reliably decreases the frequency and intensity of hot flashes.

Acupuncture for insomnia

Acupuncture is very effective for sleep disruption and insomnia due to any cause. This is especially useful for anyone dealing with post-surgical discomfort as well as the anxiety and depression which are a common part of cancer diagnosis and treatment.

We make no claims about curing cancer with acupuncture. But by managing side effects of surgery and medications, reducing pain and inflammation, improving sleep, reducing stress and anxiety and offering ongoing comfort during treatment, community acupuncture can make cancer treatment easier as well as accelerate recovery.

If you have questions about community acupuncture treatment for cancer, please get in touch.

A practioner needling a patient's ankles; two patients visible in the background in recliners covered in yellow sheets.


Acupuncture for Chemotherapy-Induced Neutropenia in Patients with Gynecologic Malignancies: A Pilot Randomized, Sham-Controlled Clinical Trial

The Value of Acupuncture in Cancer Care

Acupuncture for the Treatment of Hot Flashes in Patients with Breast Cancer Receiving Antiestrogen Therapy: A Pilot Study in Korean Women

ARIX: a randomised trial of acupuncture v oral care sessions in patients with chronic xerostomia following treatment of head and neck cancer.

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