One of the most common questions we get is, “Can acupuncture treat and cure cancer?” At first, I thought my malpractice insurance was sending spies to test me. The answer is, of course, NO! Acupuncture can not cure cancer! Then, I realized these were real people asking real questions, probably based on something they read online. Anyone who knows me or who follows me knows I’m brutally honest. If you read something like: cupping is practically acupuncture and it can cure your cancer, please walk away; no... run away. Because you know not only are these people disingenuous, but they are incompetent. When we are talking about cancer, the big “C” word, the most important factor you should consider when choosing your team of providers is competency.
So, let’s get to it then! A brief history of myself, Dr. Fick: During college, I was incredibly fortunate to work at a booming clinic in Cherry Creek that specialized in oncology. 90 percent of our cases were oncology patients. The style of acupuncture very much shaped what I do today, and is very close to medical acupuncture.
Acupuncture cannot prevent or cure cancer that we know of, but that doesn’t mean itis useless for people suffering from cancer. Acupuncture is a powerful tool for cancer and chemo symptom relief and side effect abatement. The process each patient goes through is unique and treacherous. As a medical acupuncturist, it is my job to effectively figure out what side effects I can target with acupuncture. Next, I look at how I can support the patient’s lifestyle and diet without causing harm to the treatment plan his/her oncologist has put in place. My role is to support the oncologist by addressing the patients mild concerns that don’t require pharmaceuticals. This means carefully checking patients’ diets and making sure they aren’t excreting the chemo out of their bodies too fast, and checking all herb/supplement/pharmaceutical interactions. The other critical factor is scheduling acupuncture appointments and protocols around chemo days to support chemotherapy.
These considerations are all very important to the whole success of the treatments—not all chemical/biological treatments are bad.They are lifesaving for millions of people, and even therapies like acupuncture can actually set someone back if we don’t take considerations to heart. The second master’s degree I earned was my Master of Science in Traditional Chinese (or Oriental) Medicine, which covered exercise, health, stress management techniques, supplements and, most of all, herbs. Additionally, I have extensive training in functional medicine, which provides the foundation for any recommendation I make.
Acupuncture, with my previous and current clinical observation, can help with the following side effects of cancer and chemo: drymouth, lack of salivation, neuropathy, pain, loss of sensation, fatigue, nausea, insomnia or hypersomnia, change in bowel patterns including diarrhea and constipation, low immune function, muscle weakness, brain fog, emotional stress including anxiety and depression, loss of appetite, headaches, and scar reduction therapy.
A recent study, a meta-analysis (the highest and most reviewed study), came out that showed that “acupuncture is effective in relieving cancer-related pain, particularly malignancy-related and surgery-induced pain.” What positive news! 1
My college job in Cherry Creek had such an impact on me because although we were helping patients tremendously with acupuncture, and they were receiving chemo and western care, no one was really filling in that void and really making sure diet and lifestyle was in check. In fact, in one of the most profound moments, we had a patient suddenly pass away at the clinic who was seemingly healthy. This wasn’t a malpractice case—don’t worry. But, long story short, I had this fire inside me that thought, “Maybe we should have been checking their labs and making sure everything was ok, double checking diet and putting them on a more strict exercise routine with supplements.” This really gave me a passion for using functional medicine with acupuncture to really double check that patients were ok—that they weren’t literally going to die on the table, and that there wasn’t cancer brewing.
When designing my new clinic, I had adéjà vu moment. I (figuratively) went back to that Cherry Creek clinic, which wasn’t the warmest, most welcoming place. And, when thinking of my new clinic, I thought, if I was a really sick cancer patient and I was coming in for acupuncture, what would I want? I didn’t imagine a stifled doctor’s office or, conversely, like many acupuncture clinics, a place full of Buddhas. I wanted a place that felt like I was being taken care of by the best, most competent doctors, but had something that we all love and agree on—nature. So, I tried to design a place where cancer patients, who have gone through so much, could get so much. We see great results by following a simple medical acupuncture protocol: needling where the damage to the lymphatics are; needling with specific electrical stimulation setting where peripheral neuropathy is (to stimulate peripheral neuropathy); needling near coagulations of white blood cells to elicit ATP and energy production for fatigue; and needling near sympathetic nerves of the colon for constipation. The absolute hardest part about this is getting the patient into the office, especially when they aren’t feeling well. This non-pharmacological approach can lead to healthier outcomes, fewer side effects long-term, and more importantly, a higher quality of living.1 bit.ly/35eblTC
Dr. Christina Fick (DAOM)
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