Since 2003, MD Anderson Cancer Center has been offering acupuncture as an accompanying therapy for symptom management among cancer patients. The procedure is part of a non-pharmacologic program that can also include massages, nutrition, physical therapy, and/or health psychology in order to improve symptom control during and after cancer care.
Traditional Chinese Medicine has used acupuncture for more than 3,000 years and there are countless reports that support its claims of providing concrete health benefits, yet the western world has been somewhat skeptical. Results of a year-long study into its effectiveness surpassed even the expectations of attending doctors.
Integrative oncology, which encompasses acupuncture, refers to “a patient-centered, evidence-informed field of cancer care that utilizes mind and body practices, natural products, and/or lifestyle modifications from different traditions alongside conventional cancer treatments”. It aims to “optimize health, quality of life, and clinical outcomes across the cancer care continuum and to empower people to prevent cancer and become active participants before, during, and beyond cancer treatment”.
While the study did not focus on mesothelioma, among the 375 participants with various types of cancer, including breast, head, and neck, gastrointestinal, several patients had forms of the disease similar to mesothelioma.
Acupuncture involves placing solid, sterile, stainless steel needles into various points on the body. Manual manipulation is sometimes used to stimulate the effect. Special steel or gold needles, or “studs”, can be used on specific points on the ears. The procedure is quite painless, safe, minimally invasive and has virtually no side effects.
Overall, patients suffering from spiritual pain saw an almost 60 percent improvement. Dry mouth and nausea – both common mesothelioma symptoms – also improved by more than 57 percent. Appetite, pain, sleeping problems, all were alleviated by about 50 %.
Lead author Gabriel Lopez concluded that: “Outpatient acupuncture was associated with immediate and longitudinal significant improvement across a range of symptoms commonly experienced by individuals during cancer care”.