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Cancer patients turn to acupuncture to cope with symptoms, side effects

University of Maryland School of Medicine doctor answers questions on treatment

September 30, 2011|By Meredith Cohn, The Baltimore Sun

A: We do not have a good answer yet. We are conducting clinical trials to try to answer this question. Based on my experience, the majority of cancer patients I have treated did show some improvement after acupuncture treatment, although not everyone responded to it. Because acupuncture is a relatively safe and non-invasive procedure, very few absolute arguments are used against it. We do know that we need to be extra careful when we perform acupuncture on patients with a low white cell count or a low platelet count to reduce the risk of infection and bleeding.

Q: When should a patient expect relief and how long should it last?

A: It depends on the condition the patient is being treated for and the patient's state of health and stage of disease. Some conditions, such as chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting may only require one or two treatments, whereas chronic conditions such as chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (nerve pain) may take 4-8 treatments to see relief. Again, the duration of the treatment response, which may last from hours to weeks, depends on the condition being treated and on the patients themselves. In my acupuncture clinic, depending on the condition being treated, I usually start with once- or twice-weekly acupuncture treatments and then gradually adjust the frequency.

meredith.cohn@baltsun.com

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