What Can Acupuncture Treat?

Immune System Support

How Can Acupuncture Help?


The nausea and vomiting which commonly occurs in patients undergoing chemotherapy can often be worse than the disease itself. 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 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. One of the major findings of the NIH consensus statement on acupuncture was its positive effect in treating nausea associated with chemotherapy.

Immune system support

Acupuncture theory suggests that acupuncture treatment may help to improve immune system function in a variety of ways. It is often used in people with compromised immune function to help bolster their immunity in a drug free manner. Here is a an example of some research findings on the subject.

Acupuncture: pain management coupled to immune stimulation (Gollub, 1999):

“The phenomenon of acupuncture is both complex and dynamic. Recent information demonstrates that acupuncture may exert its actions on pain and immune processes. The coupling of these two systems occurs via common signaling molecules, i.e., opioid peptides. In this regard, we surmise that:

1. opioid activation leads to the processing of opioid peptides from their
precursor, proenkephalin, and
2. the simultaneous release of antibacterial peptides contained within the precursor
as well. Thus,
3. central nervous system pain circuits may be coupled to immune enhancement.
4. Furthermore, acupuncture needle manipulation elicited signal increases
bilaterally in the region of the primary and secondary somatosensory corticies
in human brain as determined by magnetic resonance imaging.
5. The maps reveal marked signal decreases bilaterally in multiple limbic and
deep gray structures including the nucleus accumbens, amygdala,
hypothalamus, hippocampus, and ventral tegmental area.
6. Taken together, we surmise a major central nervous system pathway as well as
local pain and immune modulation during acupuncture.”



The Integrative Cancer Program at IHC aspires to aid you in your difficult cancer journey. The integrative treatments are meant to be used in addition to your traditional Western medical care to lessen the side effects of treatment and improve your quality of life. This program is not a replacement for chemotherapy and radiation; rather, it complements those treatments to help you heal. Our practitioners will cooperate fully with your oncologist to ensure you are receiving optimum care. IHC is a caring, peaceful environment with skilled practitioners who will support you and empower you. Come in for a consultation with one of our acupuncturists and see how the IHC Integrative Cancer Program can help you!

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Acupuncture treatment can begin before traditional treatments to aid in relaxation and prepare the body for chemotherapy/radiation. It can be used after surgery to control pain and speed recovery. During cancer treatment it can prevent nausea, control anxiety, treat peripheral neuropathy, and lessen hot flashes, pain, and dry mouth. After conventional
therapies, it can be used to promote healing and a sense of well being. It is a safe, effective complement to traditional cancer treatments.

Nutrition Counseling
Proper nutrition is essential to prepare the body for the fight against cancer. During treatment, many side effects including nausea, taste changes, and dry mouth can make it difficult to eat. Nutrition counseling can help you make the right choices to combat these side effects and to maintain a healthy balanced diet tailored to your needs and your type of cancer.

Massage Therapy
A trained massage therapist can use various massage techniques to decrease anxiety, pain, fatigue, and discomfort from cancer or cancer treatments. Massage can improve your quality of life as you navigate your cancer journey. It is a safe way to promote healing when administered by a qualified professional who can customize the session to your specific condition and needs.

Mind-Body Therapies
Fatigue is common during chemotherapy/radiation and yoga has been shown to increase energy, strength, and empowerment, reduce depression, and generate a positive outlook. Tai Chi is a low-impact exercise that utilizes slow controlled movements to improve flexibility and circulation, fight fatigue, decrease muscle wasting, and promote a sense of well-being. Qi Gong enhances the flow of Qi in the body to improve your quality of life, reduce anxiety, improve appetite, and strengthen muscles.


Breast Cancer
When I was diagnosed with a recurrence of breast cancer I proceeded with aggressive chemotherapy and radiation. I began acupuncture at IHC from the start, to aid the healing of the surgical procedure. Most important was the acupuncture administered to help with the side effects of the chemo, specifically nausea, fatigue, and other discomforts. I also developed high blood pressure during chemo. I am pleased to report that the combination of medications and acupuncture resulted in my experiencing no nausea whatsoever and my blood pressure began to return to normal. We continued with acupuncture through my radiation treatments. Fatigue is the most common complaint among those receiving
radiotherapy. Although I was tired, I was hardly confined to the couch. I was able to take care of my grandchild, socialize, and stay positive. It is my firm belief that acupuncture significantly reduced the symptoms related to the very aggressive treatment my illness required. Symptom relief is essential to maintaining the positive outlook and the reasonable quality of life necessary during cancer treatment in order to be victorious, well, and happy again. – Susan O. (Baltimore, MD)

Hot Flashes due to Tamoxifen Therapy (as part of breast cancer treatment)
What can I say? Although the medication induced hot flashes are difficult to control, I discovered many other benefits of acupuncture. With my family history of arthritis, I am grateful every morning, when I walk down the steps without pain shooting through my knees. Domenic and Brian are impressively knowledgeable, down-to-earth practitioners. Monique is the icing on the cake. The Parkville office rocks!! – Janice Woollen

Assisted with Chemotherapy Side-Effects…
I came to Integrative Health Centers due to the side effects I was experiencing from my chemotherapy treatments (I had a brain tumor removed). I had fatigue, a metallic taste in my mouth and excess heat sensations. Since we believe in alternative wellness treatments, we thought we would give it a try. Our experience has been excellent! The acupuncture has been relaxing and very helpful! We rate you as 5 stars!
– John Bittorf


Research Support of Integrative Cancer Care


A controlled study that was published in May 2010 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology observed that cancer patients in a group receiving weekly acupuncture treatments showed significant reductions in pain, dysfunction, and xerostomia (severe dry mouth) when compared with patients receiving usual care only.

Acupuncture for pain and dysfunction after neck dissection: results of a randomized controlled trial

The National Cancer Institute supports the use of acupuncture for treatment of nausea, vomiting, pain, anxiety, depression, insomnia, poor appetite, and gastrointestinal symptoms. Acupuncture also has been shown to boost the immune system and improve quality of life. The website cites multiple studies that have supported the use of acupuncture for cancer-related side effects.

Acupuncture (PDQ): www.cancer.gov


The American Cancer Society recommends a diet rich in protein and phytonutrients for people with cancer. Their website suggests that eating well during cancer treatment can help you feel better, maintain strength and energy, stay at a healthy weight, tolerate side effects, lower the risk of infection, and recover faster.



A study published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management in March 2007 with 138 participants concluded that bedside massage and acupuncture after cancer surgery decreased pain and depression when compared with traditional care.

Symptom Management with Massage and Acupuncture in Postoperative Cancer Patients:
A Randomized Controlled Trial

At least half of the cancer centers associated with the National Cancer Institute offer massage to their
cancer patients.


A study published in April 2010 on women with breast cancer showed that those in a group who received biweekly 3o-minute massages demonstrated significantly lower mood disturbances (anxiety, depression tiredness, and anger) compared to women in a group that did not receive the treatment. Also, the women in the treatment group showed significantly lower cortisol levels and perceived stress when compared to baseline measurements.

The efficacy of classical massage on stress perception and cortisol following
primary treatment of breast cancer

Mind-Body Therapies:

A case report published by the Dana-Farber Cancer

Institute in March 2010 described the case of a woman with breast cancer. During her conventional treatment she received acupuncture and massage, nutrition counseling, and practiced yoga. She experienced a decrease in back and arm pain, the intensity of hot flashes, muscle aches, and anxiety, and an increase in range of motion, energy, and a general feeling of well being from the integrative therapies. Yoga was shown to help patients maintain strength, flexibility, and tone. It also has been shown to reduce anticipatory nausea, decrease hot flashes, joint pain, and fatigue, and improve quality of life.

Integrative Tumor Board: a Case Report and
Discussion from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute