Acupuncture is a traditional way of treatment that has been practiced in China and other Asian countries for centuries. It has been clinically proven to ease the troublesome symptoms associated with cancer treatment (chemotherapy) and (radiation), such as dry mouth, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, depression, anxiety and immune suppression. Some studies also suggest that regular sessions of acupuncture therapy also completely rid the side-effects of radiation therapy; the most prominent include weight loss, lack of appetite, and constipation or diarrhea.
What Does The Latest Research Suggest?
According to a recent study conducted on menopausal patients with breast cancer, acupuncture is proven to be safe and as effective as some drugs or other forms of cancer therapies in reducing symptoms of menopause such as night sweats and hot flashes during cancer treatments. The researchers report that this therapy has the added advantage as it provides energy, improve sex drive and is completely side-effect free. The same study shows that acupuncture relieves joint stiffness and pain in post-menopausal patients with breast cancer who have taken anti-cancer drugs like aromatase inhibitors. 
Other studies suggest that acupuncture improves quality of life by addressing some of the side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Peripheral neuropathy is a common and chronic side-effect of anticancer treatments in which a patient experiences numbness and tingling of the fingers and toes – which can be managed with acupuncture and in some cases Chinese Herbs when appropriate. Those who have had surgical interventions to remove a tumor, find that regular sessions of acupuncture decrease pain associated with surgical wounds and improve range of motion and flexibility.
A study reported a significant reduction in pain, body aches, and numbness in patients with advanced gynecological cancers. These participants noted less severe pain, numbness and weakness for up to ten months without any further treatment. Another study  of middle-aged females with breast cancer found that 6-weeks of acupuncture sessions were helpful in managing several symptoms associated with chemotherapy and radiotherapy. These symptoms included peripheral neuropathy, pain, mental fatigue, depression, nausea and anxiety.
What to Expect During Acupuncture Treatment?
Acupuncture therapy – in the most common form – involves the placement of thin, sterile needles into various body parts, called energy points or Qi points. To enhance the treatment outcome, various techniques are used to stimulate the needles. The 3 most common ones include;
- Manual Stimulation – It involves inserting, pulling, turning, and twisting, the needle up and down to stimulate the flow of energy.
- Electrical Stimulation – Using a handheld device, this technique involves sending electrical signals to the needles at different waveforms and frequencies.
- Heat Stimulation – Infrared heat is used to warm up the needles. Traditionally, the heat stimulation was done by burning moxa (a dried herb) on top of the needles.
With time, acupuncture is gaining acceptance and popularity in medical practices. Studies and clinical trials have found that acupuncture is a safe and effective adjunct treatment option along with other anti-cancer therapies. There are several randomized clinical trials that show that the effectiveness of regular acupuncture sessions in managing chemotherapy and radiotherapy-induced side effects, such as physical pain, nausea, vomiting, and mental health problems. Currently, many trials are underway to find the effectiveness of this traditional therapy for managing cancer-related fatigue, neutropenia (abnormally low concentration of neutrophils), and immune suppression.
- Cohen, Andrea J., Alexander Menter, and Lyndsey Hale. “Acupuncture: Role in comprehensive cancer care—A Primer for the oncologist and review of the literature.” Integrative Cancer Therapies 4, no. 2 (2005): 131-143, accessed January 26, 2010.
- Walker, Eleanor M., Alba I. Rodriguez. et al. “Acupuncture versus venlafaxine for the management of vasomotor symptoms in patients with hormone receptor-positive breast cancer: a randomized controlled trial.” Journal of Clinical Oncology 28, no. 4, (Feb 1 2010).
- Crew, K., et al. (2010). “Randomized, blinded, sham-controlled trial of acupuncture for the management of aromatase inhibitor-associated joint symptoms in women with early-stage breast cancer.” Journal of Clinical Oncology 28 (7), 1154-1160.
- Wong, R. and S. Sagar. “Acupuncture treatment for chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy.” Acupuncture in Medicine 2006.
- Molassiotis, Alex & Bardy, Joy & Finnegan-John, Jennifer & Mackereth, Peter & Ryder, David & Filshie, Jacqueline & Ream, Emma & Richardson, Alison. (2012). Acupuncture for Cancer-Related Fatigue in Patients With Breast Cancer: A Pragmatic Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of clinical oncology : official journal of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. 30. 10.1200/JCO.2012.41.6222.