In March of 2006, I attended an excellent weekend seminar at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in NYC entitled Acupuncture for the Cancer Patient. They offer this seminar to licensed acupuncturists and other health care professionals twice a year. This seminar, sponsored by the Integrative Medicine Service, is so popular, I had been on a waiting list for a year.
The Integrative Medicine Service at Sloan-Kettering was established in 1999 and has grown exponentially. They offer many complementary therapies, including acupuncture and massage, on both an inpatient and outpatient basis. They conduct research studies on the effectiveness of acupuncture. And they offer their expertise to other health care facilities around the country on the best way to integrate this adjunctive care into the mainstream protocols.
The weekend seminar that I attended focused on detailed discussions of several types of cancers, including cancer of the lung, breast, prostate, colon and head and neck cancers. For each type, the faculty would discuss risk factors, signs and symptoms, staging criteria, and mainstream interventions such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.
The course objective for our audience was to discuss the role of acupuncture as a supportive treatment for symptom management and preventative care. Research shows that acupuncture can affect the whole body, regulating the immune system, digestive, circulatory, endocrine, urinary and nervous systems.
Specific points and protocols were discussed. Pre-surgery, acupuncture is used to promote relaxation and prevent infection and side effects. Post-surgery, acupuncture is used to control pain, improve bowel and urinary functions, decrease swelling and prevent scar tissue. Acupuncture is especially emphasized to alleviate the toxic side effects of chemotherapy and radiation. Symptoms that may be addressed are fatigue, nausea, anemia, low white blood cell counts, diarrhea or constipation, hair loss, neuropathy, hot flashes, dry mouth and pain. Anxiety, insomnia and depression are addressed not only for the cancer patient, but for the whole family that is affected by the cancer experience.
The most memorable part of the seminar for me was when one of their patients, a breast cancer survivor, shared her experience. She described the long painful process of reconstructive surgery and how acupuncture helped her get through it.
I just got a card in the mail the other day from Sloan-Kettering. They now offer an advanced seminar on acupuncture for the cancer patient. I do believe that integrating alternative therapies into our western medical system will give us the best of both worlds in the future. Our goal should be to treat the whole person: body, mind and spirit.
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