I recently completed a 16 hour continuing education course entitled “Understanding and Treating the Breast Cancer Patient.” Although I have treated countless breast cancer patients in my 16 years of practice, I never knew just how complex the breast cancer treatment process is, and how deeply the physical and emotional ramifications of breast cancer diagnosis and treatment affect people.
This course introduced a lot of new information to me, such as the numerous types of breast cancer, how aggressive each type is and the prognosis for each type. Breast cancer treatments (surgery, chemotherapy, targeted chemotherapy and radiation), side effects and long-term effects of each type of treatment were discussed in great detail.
The most common conditions breast cancer patients seek acupuncture for after surgery, chemotherapy or targeted chemotherapy include:
-insomnia and night sweats
-surgical related pain
-anxiety and stress
-appetite (too low or too strong)
-other digestive symptoms
-widespread pain/joint pains
All of the above conditions can be helped with acupuncture.
While many breast cancer patients wait to begin acupuncture once they’ve completed surgery, radiation and/or chemotherapy (understandably, as the process of undergoing breast cancer treatments can be quite time consuming, tiresome and overwhelming), it is highly beneficial to begin acupuncture before/immediately after surgery and during chemotherapy/radiation in order to prevent problems and manage active side effects of treatment. For example, acupuncture can relieve nausea, indigestion and constipation during chemotherapy, minimize neuropathy from chemotherapy (the sooner the better when using a drug with a known side effect of neuropathy) and relieve post-operative pain when received close to the time of surgery.
In general, for all health conditions, acupuncture is most helpful when received close to the onset of any new health condition/symptoms (results/improvements are quicker and symptoms are more likely to resolve altogether rather than become chronic). This is consistent for breast cancer support, just like it is for any other type of health condition.
The treatment of common breast cancer related health conditions with acupuncture are ones that we at Acupuncture Together are very familiar with and treat regularly. This particular training, however, was specifically informative due to the detailed information about breast cancer treatments and how to best support breast cancer patients. In addition, the use of herbs, supplements and topical salves for various cancer treatment side effects and post-cancer treatment was discussed, which was new information for me. I feel I now have a solid base of knowledge and resources to guide me when helping breast cancer patients.