top of page
Acupuncture in the Treatment of Chemotherapy and Radiation Side Effects


How Can Acupuncture Benefit Oncology Patients?


By: Eugene Mak, MD, Board Certified Oncologist and MARF Board Member


For patients requiring surgery, acupuncture helps balance the body and ease anxiety prior to surgery. It can also help boost the immune system. Post-operatively, acupuncture can improve relaxation and ability to sleep, decrease pain, inflammation and nausea, improve bowel function and speed healing.


During chemotherapy, acupuncture can help patients with fatigue, stress, anxiety, and sleep disturbances. It can also help with the side effects of chemotherapy, including: nausea, vomiting, mouth sores, changes in taste sensations, neuropathy, pain, bowel function problems, allergic reactions to chemo, fatigue and many other symptoms that may occur.


During radiation, acupuncture can help improve wound healing time and other side effects such as, xerostomia (lack of saliva), pain, stress, anxiety and fear.


The Role of Acupuncture in Cancer Treatment


The role of acupuncture in the curative group is in its adjunctive use in:


  • Anesthesia

  • Post-operative pain control

  • Nausea and Vomiting

  • Aiding and hastening recovery from the side effects of the various therapies


Acupuncture is effective for control of pain in local swelling post-operatively, for shortening the resolution of hematoma and tissue swelling and for minimizing use of medications and their attendant side effects. Energetic acupuncture, an approach consisting of the use of needles with electricity and moxibustion (a form of local heating with herbs) imparts a sense of well being and accelerates patients’ recovery. In conjunction with nutritional support its use is routinely employed in some cancer institutions.


Nausea and Vomiting


The dreaded nausea and vomiting which commonly occurs in some patients undergoing chemotherapy and inevitably, with the use of certain classes of agents, can often be worse than the disease itself, and can often be pre-treated with acupuncture. Most oncologists have experienced the patients who start vomiting at the thought of their next clinic visit. At the University of Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Medicine, a well-controlled study completed over two Years ago, the authors of the published paper reported significant reduction of nausea and vomiting when pre-treated with acupuncture. It is now routinely administered before, after and in between chemotherapy treatment sessions for control or nausea and emesis. Such treatments are relatively simple and easily executed in an outpatient setting. Its effectiveness helps in minimizing the use of standard, expensive multi-drug anti-nausea regimens with their attendant side effects, given along with the chemotherapeutic agents.


Pain Control


That acupuncture is a powerful tool for general pain control is widely known. Less known is its successful use in some cancer-related pain and in reducing narcotic use and thereby minimizing the side effects confusion, behavioral changes, nausea and severe constipation.



Acupuncture Helpful in Relieving Breast Cancer Effects


By: Sam Gaines, Staff Writer
For many women undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer, the use of traditional Chinese medicinal herbs, may help guard bone marrow and the immune system, while improving overall quality of life. That’s the conclusion of the Cochrane Systematic Review, a study of the use of Chinese medicine to determine safety and effectiveness in breast cancer patients.

bottom of page