Acupuncture For Breast Cancer Related Lymphedema
A significant number of breast cancer survivors develop a long-term, difficult to treat, symptom called lymphedema. This involves swelling of the arm, shoulder or breast on the side in which breast tumors and lymph nodes were removed and or radiation treatment performed. The swelling is due to changes in flow of the fluid within lymph vessels in the area, though the exact process is unknown.
Results from a small pilot study led by Barrie r. Cassileth, chief of Memorial Sloan-Kettering’s Integrative Medicine Service, and Clifford a. Hudis, chief of the Breast Cancer Medicine Service, was published April 10 in The Journal Cancer
Study participants received acupuncture at Memorial Sloan-Kettering twice weekly for four weeks, using a regimen developed by the Integrative Medicine Service.
Researchers measured the participants’ upper-arm circumference before and after the treatments. They found that among the 33 patients who received acupuncture, 11 had a significant reduction in swelling and another 18 had at least a small reduction. When contacted several weeks later for feedback, patients reported lasting improvement in swelling.
Dr. Cassileth stated the study showed that acupuncture as a treatment for lymphedema is safe and well tolerated with no serious side effects.
These results confirm what I have seen clinically treating this condition in women diagnosed with breast cancer with acupuncture for the past 18 years. One of the main effects of acupuncture being improved blood and lymph flow.
Thomas Martin LAc.