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Breast Cancer Awareness Month: TCM and Breast Cancer

October 22, 2020 Patient FAQ Uncategorized

According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the 2nd most common cancer in women, with 1 in 8 women developing breast cancer in their lifetime. The study continues to estimate over 276,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer in women in 2020 alone1.  With numbers growing annually, we wanted to share some information on breast cancer pain relief in terms of TCM and acupuncture. 

TCM has been used for thousands of years to help balance the body and treat pain and discomfort through diet, herbal therapy, acupuncture, massage, meditation and physical exercise. Many studies have been conducted connecting TCM and acupuncture as successful options for relieving symptoms and side effects associated with breast cancer and its treatment. Specifically, results concluded that “acupuncture was shown to reduce post-chemotherapy fatigue by 31%” and has helped to alleviate hot flashes, nausea, vomiting and general pain2

Research has identified that acupuncture is helpful as a complementary therapy for alleviating cancer-related pain, and, given its safety record, it is a good option for pain control without any major downsides like certain medications3. Used as a multimodal approach to pain management, acupuncture has received high accolades from patients managing a range of cancer related symptoms. In a recent study of 592 breast cancer survivors, patients preferred acupuncture at rates similar to those for drugs to manage pain. Higher expectation of benefit, lower perceived barriers, and stronger natural health beliefs predicted preferences for acupuncture over drugs4.

Acupuncture was found to help with: 

  • Nausea and vomiting related to chemotherapy
  • Xerostomia related to radiation therapy
  • Hot flashes related to hormone treatment
  • Joint pain related to aromatase inhibitor therapy
  • Physical pain5

In addition to acupuncture, we have put together a general list of TCM herbal therapy options that are recommended to help treat pain and possible side effects of breast cancer treatment. Please note, this list is not comprehensive and should be used only as a reference by a professional to create formulas specific to patients and their unique needs.

  • White Patterned Snake
  • Agkistrodon
  • Bai Hua She
  • Duhuo Root
  • Angelicae Pubescens Radix
  • Du Huo
  • Sea Paulownia Bark
  • Erythrinae Cortex
  • Hai Tong Pi
  • Papaya
  • Chaenomelis Fructus
  • Mu Gua
  • Silkworm Excrement
  • Bombycis Faeces
  • Can Sha
  • Gentian Root
  • Gentianae Macrophyllae
  • Qin Jiao
  • Chinese Clematis Root
  • Clematidis Radix
  • Wei Ling Xian
  • White Or Red Peony Root
  • Peonea Alba Or Rubra
  • Bai Shao Or Chi Sha

As with any treatment option, be sure to find an acupuncturist that specializes in dealing with pain and side effects associated with breast cancer and cancer treatment.

For more TCM and breast cancer tips, take a look at our other breast cancer awareness blog, here.

1https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/about/how-common-is-breast-cancer.html#:~:text=Breast%20cancer%20is%20the%20most,she%20will%20develop%20breast%20cancer
2 https://www.breastcancer.org/treatment/comp_med/types/acupuncture
3 https://news.cancerconnect.com/breast-cancer/acupuncture-for-management-of-breast-cancer-Oxh6qpL6CkGW3gaZhp_irQ
4 https://www.cancernetwork.com/view/understanding-benefits-acupuncture-treatment-cancer-pain-management
5 https://www.cancer.net/blog/2016-11/can-acupuncture-help-relieve-cancer-pain-and-other-side-effects