Acupuncture, practiced for thousands of years, is a safe and often effective medical treatment that can be used to manage side effects from cancer.
Conditions for which acupuncture is commonly used include:
- Dry mouth (Xerostomia)
- Bowel & digestion issues
- Hot flashes
How Does Acupuncture Work?
As part of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), acupuncture is based on the ancient belief that energy flows through the body in channels known as meridians. This energy is also referred to as Qi (pronounced chee).
According to the theory, a block in the meridians can deny the muscles and surrounding tissues of Qi, creating an imbalance of health. However, the flow of Qi can be restored by inserting needles at specific acupuncture points. With restored Qi, imbalances in absorption of nutrients and circulation of blood and fluids to the body’s organs can be corrected. Acupuncture should only be performed by a qualified and licensed acupuncturist..
Acupuncture has been studied, and scientists believe that stimulating specific acupuncture points causes the release of certain chemicals. These chemicals naturally stimulate the body’s regulating systems, improving the biochemical imbalance to promote well-being.
About Your Visit
Acupuncture at the Integrative Medicine Center is fee-for-service. Before we can schedule your first appointment, please contact your primary MD Anderson oncologist and request he or she send a consult-online approving you to have acupuncture.
Services are by appointment and limited to MD Anderson patients. Our fees are:
- Initial Assessment & First Treatment – $80.00
- Each Follow-up Treatment – $65.00
If you choose to seek reimbursement from your insurance provider after your visit, please ask us for a center visit record. For additional details or to make an appointment, please call us at 713-794-4700.
The following is a list of contraindications and precautions that MD Anderson staff will adhere to while determining which patients should receive acupuncture:
- If for any reason the patient’s oncologist is concerned with the patient receiving acupuncture, the service will not be provided.
- Special precautions may be necessary for patients with bleeding disorders or who have recently received anti-coagulation therapy. At the time of referral, we will work with your physician to determine if labwork is needed or if deep needling should be avoided.
- Patients with local or systemic infection or who are immunocompromised may not be eligible to receive acupuncture. We will work with your physician at the time of referral to determine if special precautions or labwork are needed.
- Patients with a pacemaker will not be eligible to receive electrical stimulation during acupuncture but may be eligible for treatment without electrical stimulation.
- Special precautions may be necessary for patients with other electronic devices or metal implants.
- Mental status will be taken into consideration when being evaluated for treatment with this minimally invasive procedure
Frequently Asked Questions
- When should I consider using acupuncture?
There is good scientific evidence that acupuncture is effective for treating nausea, vomiting and certain types of pain. For fatigue, peripheral neuropathy, radiation-induced dry mouth, constipation, diarrhea, anxiety / depression or other symptoms and side-effects of treatment commonly experienced by cancer patients, the evidence is less well established because fewer studies have been conducted. As a safe, minimally invasive procedure, however, acupuncture should be considered as an adjunct to conventional approaches when side-effects of treatment or other symptoms are uncontrolled. The acupuncturist will work with your personal physician to be certain that you do not have any bleeding abnormalities or other problems that would make it unsafe for you to have acupuncture.
- Is it safe?
Acupuncture should only be performed by a health care professional with an appropriate license. When performed correctly, acupuncture has been shown to be a safe, minimally invasive procedure with very few side effects. The side effects most commonly reported are fainting, bruising, and mild pain. Infection is also a potential risk, although very uncommon as the FDA requires that sterile, nontoxic needles be used and that they be labeled for single use by qualified practitioners only. Practitioners should also swab treatment sites with alcohol or another disinfectant before inserting needles. If you are a cancer patient, it is preferable to have an acupuncturist who has experience with malignant diseases.
- How many treatments will I need?
The specific number and frequency of treatments needed depends on your symptoms. During the initial visit, the acupuncturist will take your history and complete a physical assessment, including examination of your pulse on both wrists and a visual inspection of your tongue. The acupuncturist will then work with you to develop a treatment plan and make recommendations regarding the number and frequency of treatments that best fits your needs.
- Is it better to have acupuncture before or after chemotherapy?
The best timing for your acupuncture treatments depends on your symptoms. For nausea, it is best to have acupuncture before and possibly during chemotherapy. For other symptoms such as pain, fatigue, diarrhea or constipation, it may be best to plan your treatments before, during or after chemotherapy. The acupuncturist can help you make decisions regarding the optimum timing of your treatments.
- What will I feel?
The sensation from the acupuncture treatment varies among individuals. The needles are made of solid stainless steel and are significantly smaller in diameter than a regular hypodermic needle. Most patients feel minimal discomfort and find the treatment to be very relaxing. Some patients experience heaviness, tingling or warmth around the insertion site which may continue to be present for a short period after the treatment is completed.