There is much discussion about Complementary & Alternative Medicine in Cancer Care. The MultiCare Clinic supports the Society for Integrative Oncology's position, and practice guidelines as it pertains to CAM therapies, and specifically in regards to acupuncture:
Society For Integrative Oncology: Integrative Oncology Practice Guidelines
“Acupuncture is strongly recommended as a complementary therapy for pain control when pain is poorly controlled, when side effects from other modalities are clinically significant, or when reducing the amount of pain medicine becomes a clinical goal. Acupuncture is also strongly recommended as a complementary therapy when nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy are poorly controlled or when side effects from other modalities are clinically significant.”
Journal of the Society for Integrative Oncology, Vol 5, No 2 (Spring), 2007: pp 65–84
Please Click Here For The SIO CAM Guidelines
Typically, acupuncture treatments are given concurrently with other treatments such as chemotherapy. According to the National Cancer Institute there is no substantial evidence that acupuncture cures cancer itself. However, scientific studies that looked at acupuncture with respect to various symptoms shows the value of acupuncture.
The most common acupuncture treatment for pain involves embedding short acupuncture needles at various places on the ear. One study compared 20 cancer patients who received such acupuncture in addition to pain medication to a group that received only the medication. All 20 in the former group reported significantly less pain. A second study of 183 patients reported that 52% were significantly helped. They required multiple treatments at intervals ranging from 1 to 4 weeks to achieve this effect.
Nausea and Vomiting
The National Cancer Institute has reported a number of studies have found that acupuncture treatment than runs concurrently with chemotherapy significantly reduces nausea and vomiting. Researchers studied the effects of acupuncture treatments that were delivered weekly for three months on women who were taking tamoxifen as part of their treatment for breast cancer and found that this group, as compared to a group who did not receive the acupuncture, reported not only less nausea but less anxiety and depression. In summary there is evidence that acupuncture enhances the control of these symptoms.
In one study cancer patients were randomly assigned to one of three treatment groups: standard acupuncture using needles; acupressure; and "sham acupressure" meaning applying pressure to random places on the body. The results showed the regular acupuncture to be superior to the other treatments with respect to increasing the patients' overall energy levels.