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Acupuncture For Pain and Discomfort During Traditional Cancer Treatments

Aimee Brown LA MSOM has worked with patients under going conventional cancer treatments to relieve pain, nausea and other discomforts. Ms. Brown will work with insurance when possible and offers a flexible schedule and is available at 2 convenient locations.

Tapping Acupuncture

More studies and doctors back its use to limit side effects of cancer treatments

By KAWANZA NEWSON Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Posted: June 15, 2008

Connie Ferentz first noticed the pain and numbness in her toes shortly after ending chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer last December. Connie Ferentz got acupuncture treatments at Columbia St. Mary's Hospital to curb foot pain that resulted from cancer treatment. Now she can work out at the Wisconsin Athletic Club.

It didn�t bother her much during the day, although the pain began to wake her at night. The 58-year-old Glendale nurse knew things would progressively worsen and sought to do something fast. Within a month, Ferentz found herself inside a dimly lighted room in the radiation oncology unit at Columbia St. Mary�s Hospital, listening to soothing music while her feet were pricked with hair-like needles to release the tension they carried.

Ferentz said acupuncture immediately alleviated the pain in her right foot on her first visit. Within four treatments, the pain in her left foot had lessened. It�s been nearly four months and she�s still not plagued by foot discomfort. �I had tremendous relief,� she said. �I was amazed at how much change I had in the feeling of my feet.�

Acupuncture is an increasingly popular complementary treatment to standard cancer care. Studies continuously boost evidence that patients who seek acupuncture have drastic improvements in their treatment-related symptoms. Among the findings � decreased nausea, vomiting, pain and fatigue and improvements in anxiety, mood, insomnia and appetite.

At a meeting of cancer specialists this month in Chicago, researchers showed that acupuncture relieved pain and neck or shoulder dysfunction among patients who had undergone surgery and radiation to treat their head and neck cancer. The study, which was conducted by researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, also found that acupuncture alleviated xerostomia, a condition characterized by an inability to produce saliva.

The patients randomly were assigned to receive either weekly acupuncture or usual care that included pain medication and physical therapy. Patients in the acupuncture group also were allowed to take pain medication, if needed. Among the 70 patients in the study, 39% in the acupuncture group reported improvements in their symptoms, compared with 7% in the control group.

However, further study is needed before acupuncture is formally recommended for treatment of pain and dysfunction in patients with head and neck cancer, said David Pfister, Sloan-Kettering�s chief of head and neck medical oncology who presented the findings.

Balancing yin, yang

Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine that involves stimulation of points on the body using a variety of techniques, primarily super-thin needles. The technique seeks to unblock the flow of qi, which results from an imbalance of two opposing and inseparable forces called yin and yang. Yin represents cold, slow or passive aspects of the person, while yang represents hot, excited or active aspects. Balance is needed to maintain spiritual, emotional, mental and physical health.

According to the 2002 National Health Interview Survey, an estimated 8.2 million U.S. adults reported they had used acupuncture, and an estimated 2.1 million said they�d used acupuncture in the previous year.

�I would like to see it as a mainstream treatment for many of the symptoms that occur with cancer treatment,� said Lucille Marchand, a professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison and clinical director of integrative oncology services at the UW Carbone Comprehensive Cancer Center. Ideally, it would be used with each cancer patient throughout chemotherapy to minimize the side effects, she said.

For certified acupuncturist Adam Margolis, the technique represents a �gentle, pleasant and therapeutic way . . . to enhance cancer treatment without having to add another drug, which will have its own side effects.� Margolis, who treated Ferentz, said that there is a growing awareness of the benefits of acupuncture and that many patients are very receptive to the technique. �It�s one of the nicest things that will happen to some people while they�re in the hospital,� he said.

Ferentz now sees her acupuncturist once a month for a half-hour session. She�s not sure how much longer she�ll continue, but she wishes she�d started going a little sooner. �Acupuncture is a therapy, just like chemotherapy, not an event,� said Michael Culotti, a certified acupuncturist with Aurora Health Care. �You have to have subsequent visits, and people may need a series of treatments.�

But the important thing is that the patient sees an improvement in the quality of life, he said.

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