Cancer Patients Can Get Help from a Surprising Source: Acupuncture

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Cancer and its treatment can cause patients numerous unpleasant side effects, including pain, fatigue and nausea. These can also contribute to insomnia, as can stress and anxiety, right at a time when patients need sufficient rest to battle cancer.

Acupuncture may help.

“Acupuncture: Patient Version,” published by the National Cancer Institute ( states that acupuncture has been shown in clinical trials to “control pain and to relieve nausea and vomiting, fatigue, hot flashes, xerostomia [dry mouth], neuropathy, anxiety, depression and sleeping problems.”

L. Lolane Glundal, licensed acupuncturist at Harmonious Holistic Acupuncture in Manlius, said that acupuncture is all about balance.

“We can bring the body back into balance, between organ systems and yin and yang,” she said. “Traditional Chinese medicine is very helpful.”

She explained that acupuncture stimulates blood circulation to support healing, release of endorphins to mitigate pain, and reduces nausea.

Some patients struggle to complete all the grueling rounds of chemotherapy or radiation and must take a break. Glundal said that acupuncture may also help improve clients’ energy.

Emily Doucet, program coordinator at CancerConnects in East Syracuse, said that patients who have experienced radiation may experience swelling and discomfort in their mouths and throats. These symptoms can further lower their appetite at a time where eating right is important for promoting better health.

“Acupuncture can aid in decreasing these symptoms,” she said, citing information from the National Cancer Institute.

“Acupuncture can help ease the pain of surgery, scars and neuropathy in cancer patients,” she added. “Some patients may find that they need to take less pain medication as a result. Acupuncture can also help to improve circulation, which can help repair scar tissue, and help regenerate damaged nerves — neuropathy — in some patients.”

Anyone who has received a cancer diagnosis would likely agree that anxiety and fear caused some sleepless nights.

Like other modalities of Chinese medicine, acupuncture offers a holistic perspective that supports clients’ wellness rather than the typical Western perspective that focuses more on patient diseases.

“There are specific acupuncture points which help the nervous system relax, so acupuncture can also aid in stress management, and help patients sleep better,” Doucet said. “Acupuncture stimulates the natural healing process of the body and works in tandem with traditional Western medicine to restore health.”

Acupuncture has no medical contraindications for cancer patients and may help lessen their need of pain medication and the medication they take to mitigate treatment side effects. Medication may bring many benefits to treating the disease, but it’s not always harmless to natural functions of the body. By lowering the medication load through acupuncture, the patient’s body has fewer substances to filter out and contend with.

Acupuncturists generally work by using hair-thin, sterile, one-use needles to stimulate the nervous system and circulatory system, and trigger the release of endorphins. By knowing the correct areas to stimulate, the acupuncturist can achieve the desired results.

Many patients find the experience deeply relaxing. Patients usually receive benefits from acupuncture within 24 to 48 hours.