October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In 2010, it is estimated that 40, 230 deaths were caused by breast cancer (1). Here in San Diego County, there was an annual average of 1,955 new cases of breast cancer (from 2004-2008), second in the state only to Los Angeles county (annual average: 5,628) (2). We are fortunate in San Diego as the current trend indicates the number of deaths due to breast cancer have been falling in our county (according to 2007 numbers) (3), but research also suggests that breast cancer rates are not decreasing nationally (4). Proper screening for breast cancer and good health practices remain necessary for our mothers, sisters, daughters and friends to continue fighting this disease. Preventative medicine, such as acupuncture, is crucial in keeping ourselves healthy and ready to fight any disease, minor to severe.
Interestingly, in the United States acupuncturists are not allowed to “treat cancer” specifically, but acupuncture is known to be useful in the treatment of the side effects of conventional cancer treatments. The World Health Organization cites acupuncture as effective in treating the “adverse reactions to radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy” and states that acupuncture may be effective in the treatment of cancer pain (pending further studies) (5). In regards to breast cancer, women who receive acupuncture in conjunction with anti-nausea medication have seen reduced episodes of nausea from chemotherapy (6). Acupuncture may also be effective in the treatment of hot flashes associated with breast cancer treatment (7). Acupuncture is a beneficial complementary treatment for both women and men suffering with breast cancer and its treatment side effects. If you or a loved one is facing breast cancer, encourage them to add acupuncture to their arsenal in their fight against cancer. Best of health to you San Diego!