Acupuncture and the Supportive Care of Breast Cancer

The first recorded information in Chinese medicine regarding breast cancer dates back to around 600 A.D. The breast mass is described as “a tiny lump that stays in the breast. It is shaped like a small irregularly formed stone.” In Chinese language ru yan or breast rock is used to describe this mammary tumor.

Four important points were made even at this time:

First: The main cause of breast cancer is emotional stress and frustration.

Second: The disease mechanism presents in the Spleen (Stomach) and Liver.

Third: It takes tens of years for this disease to manifest.

Fourth: If one eliminates the root cause (i.e. emotional stress and frustration), keep one’s spirit calm and give proper treatment this disease may be cured or aborted before it gets to the stage of an incurable breast rock.

The basic concept about the cause and mechanism of breast cancer is further explained in the Orthodox Manual of External Diseases around 1350 A.D. This Chinese text states that breast cancer results from “anxiety, emotional depression, over-thinking, and lots of ideas hanging around that make some feel dissatisfied.” This impairs the Liver, Spleen (Stomach) and Heart thus causing obstruction of the channels.

This information goes hand-in-hand with the importance of early detection in Western medicine for a more favorable outcome in treatment, and with the Chinese medicine concept of maintaining the proper flow of “qi” or energy in the body in order to prevent disease and promote health.

The studies of acupuncture treatment of nausea and vomiting are one of the most researched areas in acupuncture medicine. John Dundee and his colleagues at the University of Dublin have performed over twenty-three studies over the years to show acupuncture’s efficacy in this area. Of 105 participants with previous nausea/vomiting from chemotherapy, 63% experienced some relief and about 25 patients achieved complete absence of nausea/vomiting after only 5 minutes of electro-acupuncture. Dundee’s group also investigated 130 patients with prior chemo-induced illness with electro-acupuncture at a point near the wrist called “Pericardium 6” given shortly prior to or after chemotherapy resulted in a 97% patient experiencing complete absence or reduced illness for at least 8 hours. Other studies have produced similar results. Although patients and their preferences may differ, a rule of thumb for treatment of nausea/vomiting prior to chemotherapy is as follows:

  • 8-24 hours prior to chemotherapy for mild to moderate cases
  • 1-8 hours prior to chemotherapy for moderate to severe cases
  • 1 hour prior and immediately following chemotherapy for severe cases

Today, once a diagnosis of breast cancer has been reached, acupuncture and Chinese medicine would primarily be used to support the side effects of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation such as pain, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, anxiety, depression, neuropathies, hot flashes and even lymphedema.  It would be used similarly for other types of cancer as well. After these Western therapies are completed, acupuncture and Chinese medicine can be used to restore and rebuild the body’s natural health and immunity.   

Anita Alexandra, L.Ac., CH is an acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist with 16+ years of experience. She practices at Chiropractic Health and Acupuncture, 619 Main Street, Frisco. (970)668-3299.

Leave a Reply