The role of Acupuncture in the care of cancer patients is contentious. Some studies show that Acupuncture and Acupressure are of great benefit in the relief of pain and other symptoms, while other studies seem to show that are no significant benefits. All I can say is that the proof is in the pudding. As an Acupuncturist at the Macmillan Centre at Southend Hospital I have had some great results, helping patients with pain, hot flushes, anxiety, and lots of other side effects associated with cancer treatment.
Cancer diagnosis and treatment
Cancer treatments have come a long way in recent years, especially if they are identified early. It is now possible to identify a cancer in it’s very early stages and remove it completely, therefore curing it. Today you are likely to live nearly 6 times longer after a cancer diagnosis than you were 40 years ago. You are 95% more likely to survive bowel cancer than you were only 15 years ago. Cancer treatments, however, can stlll be incredibly harsh and unforgiving. Even if you get away with the least invasive of treatments with minimal side-effects, you are still left to deal with the emotional impact of having a serious illness.
Acupuncture can help
In Chinese hospitals you are just as likely to be treated with Chinese medicine as you are with Western medicine. A recent study in China showed that a large proportion of cancer patients use Chinese Medicine in conjunction with conventional Western medicine. In a recent study in Hong Kong 63.3% of a total 786 cancer patients used Chinese medicine in conjunction with Chemotherapy.
The NHS is a long way from offering Acupuncture routinely, but you will find it on a Tuesday at the Macmillan Centre at Southend Hospital where I volunteer. As a volunteer therapist I am able to support cancer patients with acupuncture and Tui na. Some are currently undergoing treatments while others are in recovery.
Studies have shown that Traditional Chinese Medicine in cancer management has the potential:
- To raise the quality of life
- To improve the immune response
- To minimise the side effects of radiotherapy and chemotherapy
- To treat the complications during the peri-operative period and promote the rehabilitation of patients after operations
- To ease the pain
Cutting Down your Risk
Although Acupuncture can help during cancer treatment (and the effectiveness of the treatment), there are a few things you can do that can either reduce the chances of developing it yourself or to boost your treatment and recovery.
I think therefore I am
Our cells are affected by our emotions, something the Chinese have known for thousands of years. In Chinese Medicine we say that the root of all disease is emotional. Each organ has an emotion associated to it:
The Heart – Joy and happiness
The Lungs – Sadness and Sorrow
The Liver – anger and frustration
The Spleen – Worry and over-thinking
The Kidneys – Fear
If we experience an intense emotion such as a shock, or a negative emotion over a long period, like having to endure a job we hate or being in an abusive relationship, the organs will eventually be affected. We can be slowly worn down by fear or anger, especially if you are unable to express that emotion. So it’s important that we are mindful of what we are feeling so we can do something about it. Easier said than done, I know. It may take a bit of guidance and practice, but the potential for a new job or relationship is there. Nothing in life worth having comes easy I’m afraid.
So we all have to do things we would rather not be doing, like work. Just walking out of a job is not advised, and doing your dream job might be a few years away. Changing the way you think can make all the difference. It wasn’t that long ago that we thought disease was spread by a ‘bad air’ known as a miasma. It was John Snow (not that John Snow, the other one) who made a connection between an outbreak of cholera on Broad Street in London and the water supply. If it wasn’t for such reformers as John Snow we would all be walking around wearing plague masks looking like evil penguins! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miasma_theory
You are what you eat
What we eat can also have an effect on the development of cancer. Certain foods, such as sugar and trans-fats, have been shown to be particularly bad for us. Some foods on the other hand, such as turmeric, have been shown to be good for us. Many medical professionals, however, will tell you there is not enough evidence to support this. But even if there is the slightest risk, isn’t it something we should take into consideration? If there is enough evidence to suggest something is unsafe, surely it should be approached with caution, and at least warrant thorough investigation?
This is only my opinion of course. Everyone should be free to eat as much sugar as they like, but it would be nice to be presented with all the facts so you can make a well -informed judgement. But we have to be realistic; if there is money to be made certain people and organizations will be reluctant to show us the truth. For decades the tobacco industry insisted that smoking posed no significant risk to health, when all along they knew how deadly it was. Why wouldn’t Big Business making money from sugar products do exactly the same? And the meat and dairy industries?
Remember when John Gummer encouraged his daughter to eat a burger to proof beef was safe during the mad cow epidemic. Did you know that Australia and the USA will not accept a blood or tissue donation from anyone who lived in the UK for more than 3 months between 1980 and 1996?