Cancer? – Managing the Side Effects of Chemotherapy. Although it is an effective treatment for many types of cancer, chemotherapy—like other cancer treatments—often causes side effects. The types and intensity of these side effects vary from person to person and depend on the type and location of cancer, the treatment dose, and the person’s overall health. Chemotherapy targets cells that are actively growing and dividing.

Although this is a defining characteristic of cancerous cells, it is also a feature of some actively growing normal cells, such as cells in the blood, mouth, intestines, and hair. Side effects occur when the chemotherapy damages these healthy cells that maintain the body’s function and appearance. Doctors and scientists are continually working to identify new drugs, methods of administering (giving) chemotherapy, and combinations of existing treatments that have fewer side effects. As a result, many types of chemotherapy are easier to tolerate than medications used even a few years ago. In addition, doctors have made major strides in recent years in reducing pain, nausea and vomiting, and other physical side effects. Your health care team will work with you to prevent or manage many of these side effects. This approach is called palliative or supportive care and is an important part of cancer treatment.

How does Acupuncture help?

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as Palliative Care Acupuncture and TCM herbal formulas can help treat the common side effects of chemotherapy. Common side effects caused by traditional chemotherapy drugs include: Fatigue. Fatigue (a persistent sense of tiredness or exhaustion) is the most common symptom reported by patients receiving chemotherapy. A combination of acupuncture and TCM helps diminish this effect.

Pain. Chemotherapy can cause pain for some people, including headaches, muscle pain, stomach pain, and pain from nerve damage, such as burning, numbness, or shooting pains (most often in the fingers and toes). Pain usually diminishes over time, but some people may have symptoms for months or years after chemotherapy has finished due to permanent damage to the nerves. Acupuncture can manage pain by treating the source of the pain. Sores in the mouth and throat. Chemotherapy can damage the cells that line the mouth and throat. The sores (also called mucositis) usually develop five to 14 days after receiving chemotherapy. Although the sores may become infected, they usually healcompletely when treatment is finished. Patients receiving chemotherapy who have unhealthy diets and/or poor dental hygiene increase their risk of mouth and throat sores.

Diarrhea. Certain chemotherapy causes loose or watery bowel movements. Preventing diarrhea or treating it early helps a person avoid becoming dehydrated (the condition when the body does not get the amount of fluids it needs) or developing other problems. Nausea and vomiting. Chemotherapy can cause nausea (an urge to vomit or throw up) and vomiting—a risk that depends on the type and dose of chemotherapy. With appropriate acupuncture points or the use of TCM, nausea and vomiting can be prevented or reduced in nearly all patients.

Constipation. Chemotherapy—as well as some drugs to treat nausea and vomiting, pain, depression, diarrhea, and high blood pressure—may cause constipation (the infrequent or difficult passage of stool). Patients may also increase their risk of constipation by not drinking enough fluids, not eating balanced meals, or not getting enough exercise. Treated with TCM / Acupuncture.