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Acupuncture for cancer rehabilitation

Cancer is one of the leading health burdens in Australia (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2020). For most people, the news of cancer diagnosis is quite devastating, and few things can prepare them for the arduous journey that is to follow. Fortunately, with awareness for early screening and advances in medical technology, the survival rates for cancer has been steadily increasing and more people than ever before are surviving past 5 years of diagnosis.

What is cancer survivorship

While the increasing survivorship from cancer is fantastically hopeful news for all Australians, this also means that more people than ever before are daily living with the burdens of cancer. Studies have found that cancer survivors experience an average of 11-18 concurrent symptoms after cancer modifying treatment is completed (Fan, Filipczak and Chow, 2007). The culmination of these health burdens results in substantial impact to the personal, social and professional wellbeing. Additionally, the economic burden associated with treatment, management and care of cancer is not insignificant. As a result, an Australian study found that cancer accounted for up to 19% of total disease burden in Australia (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2017).

Why are we concerned: Cancer in Australia

So how many people in Australia are burdened with cancer? 150,000. This is the number of new cases of cancer that was expected in Australia in 2020 (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2020). Of these Australians diagnosed with cancer, about 69% are expected to survive at 5 years. However for breast cancer, which is one of the most common types of cancer, this goes up to 91%. In 2015, there were 1,128,106 living Australians, who had been diagnosed with cancer (Cancer Australia, 2021). Fortunately, the survival rate of cancer has been steadily increasing in the last several decades (51% in early 90s to 69% in the last decade).

How does cancer affect us: Symptoms in cancer

Many people do not regain good health after cancer modifying treatment (Skandarajah et al., 2020). One of the most common types of symptoms experienced by cancer patients are sleep disturbance, fatigue, pain, anxiety and depression (Garcia et al., 2014). Unfortunately, many survivors experience numerous variations of symptoms at the same time. In conventional care, this can result in poly-pharmacy (Johnstone, 2011).

What will help: Acupuncture for cancer

Emerging research has demonstrated the benefit of acupuncture in numerous cancer related symptoms. These range from dry mouth, pain, fatigue, sleep disturbance, numbness and tingling, anxiety, depression, hot flashes, and nausea and vomiting (Garcia et al., 2013; Lu et al. 2008).

Of the most common of the symptoms are the sleep, fatigue, and pain. Acupuncture has demonstrated favourable results in improving sleep compared to drug therapy (Choi et al., 2017). There is also promising results in relieving cancer related fatigue (Cheng et al., 2017), and cancer related pain (Choi et al., 2012; Paley et al., 2011). There are especially positive results for acupuncture in relieving cancer related nausea and vomiting (Ezzo et al., 2006; McKeon et al., 2013).

Where we are: Kingsford

Healthspace is an integrative multidisciplinary clinic with a strong focus on community health and lifestyle diseases. Daniel is an acupuncturist at Healthspace Kingsford with keen interest in cancer rehabilitation. Daniel is currently involved in a number of studies in cancer research with special focus on safety and effectiveness of acupuncture in cancer rehabilitation.

Reference List

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2020. Retrieved from

Cancer Australia. Retrieved from

Cheng, C. S., Chen, L. Y., Ning, Z. Y., Zhang, C. Y., Chen, H., Chen, Z., … & Xie, J. (2017). Acupuncture for cancer-related fatigue in lung cancer patients: a randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled pilot trial. Supportive Care in Cancer25(12), 3807-3814.

Choi, T. Y., Kim, J. I., Lim, H. J., & Lee, M. S. (2017). Acupuncture for managing cancer-related insomnia: a systematic review of randomized clinical trials. Integrative cancer therapies16(2), 135-146.

Ezzo, J., Richardson, M. A., Vickers, A., Allen, C., Dibble, S., Issell, B. F., … & Zhang, G. (2006). Acupuncture‐point stimulation for chemotherapy‐induced nausea or vomiting. Cochrane database of systematic reviews, (2).

Fan, G., Filipczak, L., & Chow, E. (2007). Symptom clusters in cancer patients: a review of the literature. Current oncology14(5), 173-179.

Fiorentino, L., & Ancoli-Israel, S. (2006). Insomnia and its treatment in women with breast cancer. Sleep medicine reviews10(6), 419-429.

Garcia, M. K., McQuade, J., Haddad, R., Patel, S., Lee, R., Yang, P., … & Cohen, L. (2013). Systematic review of acupuncture in cancer care: a synthesis of the evidence. Journal of Clinical Oncology31(7), 952.

Garcia, M. K., Cohen, L., Lopez, G., Spelman, A., Onyemeh Sea, A. D., Chaoul, A., … & Lee, R. T. (2014). Retrospective analysis of outpatient acupuncture treatments at MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Johnstone, P. A. (2011). Acupuncture as cancer symptom therapy: what a difference a decade makes. Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies4(4), 209-213. Johnstone, P. A. (2011). Acupuncture as cancer symptom therapy: what a difference a decade makes. Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies4(4), 209-213.

Lu, W., Dean-Clower, E., Doherty-Gilman, A., & Rosenthal, D. S. (2008). The value of acupuncture in cancer care. Hematology/oncology clinics of North America22(4), 631-648.

McKeon, C., Smith, C. A., Hardy, J., & Chang, E. (2013). Acupuncture and acupressure for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting: a systematic review. Australian Journal of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine8(1), 2.

Skandarajah, A. R., Lisy, K., Ward, A., Bishop, J., Lacey, K., Mann, B., & Jefford, M. (2020). Patient-reported outcomes in survivors of breast cancer one, three, and five years post-diagnosis: a cancer registry-based feasibility study. Quality of Life Research, 1-10

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