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    Because cancer cells typically grow and proliferate rapidly, many anticancer drugs are designed to kill growing cells, an effect not usually confined to the cancer cells themselves; the damage to other growing cells in the body can lead to a variety of unpleasant side effects depending on the drug in question and the individual patient. Typical side effects include fatigue, nausea and vomiting, pain, hair loss, hot flashes and infections. Radiotherapy can cause some similar side effects.


    Whilst for some patients such side effects may be mild and well managed, many others will benefit from forms of treatment which help assuage side effects and support them through the often difficult period of treatment. The effectiveness of acupuncture and TCM in helping in this way is a good example of how it can be useful working alongside conventional treatment.

    Indeed the holistic perspective of TCM means it is very well placed to support patients through chemotherapy and other forms of conventional treatment. Treatment in TCM always aims to bring the body (and mind) back into harmonious balance, and to strengthen the individual and boost their energy.


    For example there is good evidence1 of the effectiveness of acupuncture, particularly electro acupuncture in treating chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting. A 2012 study2 found that acupuncture was an effective treatment in managing cancer related fatigue and improving quality of life. There is a wealth of research into the effectiveness of TCM on hot flushes3, specifically those experienced as a side effect of drugs used in the treatment of breast cancer.

    1. Ezzo J. et al (2010) Acupuncture-point stimulation for chemotherapy-induced nausea or vomiting (Review) The Cochrane Library Issue 1
    2. Molassiotis A et al (2012) Acupuncture for Cancer-Related Fatigue in Patients With Breast Cancer: A Pragmatic Randomized Controlled Trial. J Clin Oncol. 2012 Oct 29
    3. Hervik J & Mialand O (2008) Acupuncture for the treatment of hot flashes in breast cancer patients, a randomized, controlled trial. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2009 Jul;116(2):311-6. Epub 2008 Oct 7.

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