I heard that acupuncture can help ease and/or eliminate a number of cancer treatment side effects. Is this true?"
Conventional therapies, tested through clinical trials, are most commonly prescribed by doctors to alleviate side effects of cancer treatment such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy (radiotherapy). However, as some of these therapies can cause other side effects, patients may seek alternatives.
Acupuncture is considered a complementary therapy. Complementary therapies may be used alongside conventional medical treatments to support and enhance quality of life and wellbeing for cancer patients. While there has been some research into acupuncture as a therapy to relieve the side effects of cancer treatment, we have yet to see compelling evidence of its effectiveness.
The main areas of research into acupuncture are the reduction of chemotherapy induced nausea and pain. A relatively small number of trials have shown some promising results. There is also low strength evidence that acupuncture can alleviate breathlessness in people with advanced cancer, as well as provide relief of symptoms such as fatigue and insomnia. While the limited number of studies done have provided some evidence, more high quality clinical trials are required to determine the full extent to which acupuncture can be used as a safe and effective therapy for treatment side effects and cancer symptoms. Cancer Council recommends talking to your treating physician before commencing acupuncture or any complementary therapy.