One of the most disrupting side effects of chemotherapy is the nausea it induces. Despite advances in anti-nausea medication, most patients undergoing this treatment still have trouble keeping down their meals. The constant nausea also reduces appetite — this can be quite damaging to the body. While the available nausea medication does provide some assistance, it doesn’t work on everyone.
Doctors are now turning to acupuncture as an adjuvant to medication in treating this nausea. A recent study has shown promise for this alternative therapy. The review found that 11% fewer patients experienced vomiting when they received acupuncture in addition to an anti-nausea drug, as opposed to those who received the medication alone. This meant that only 22% of patients who had received acupuncture actually experienced vomiting within 24 hours of their chemotherapy treatment.
The study group included patients undergoing one of four different types of acupuncture: normal acupuncture, electroacupuncture, acupressure, and electrical stimulation. The least effective was the electrical stimulation, which is different from electroacupuncture.
Oddly enough, electroacupuncture seemed to have the most noticeable effect in patients; it reduced the amount of times a patient was sick. Acupressure was found to be effective in reducing nausea, but it didn’t reduce the overall likelihood of vomiting. While it didn’t affect vomiting, its effect on nausea means that acupressure may be useful in increasing the appetites of cancer patients.
Treating the side effects associated with cancer therapy is nearly as important as treating the actual cancer. Patients who are experiencing the nausea, vomiting, constipation, fatigue, and pain associated with their treatments are not as strong as those who experience minimal side effects from the medication.
Without an appetite, patients can’t get the nutrients they need in order to help fight off the disease. Finding new ways to conquer the side effects of these therapies is essential to improving a patient’s quality of life and their likelihood of survival. More studies definitely need to be done on the role of acupuncture in chemotherapy. If more studies confirm the benefits of electroacupuncture, then this could become a popular complementary therapy for cancer patients. Keep your eye out for more trials on this therapy.