Cancer patients explore benefits of acupuncture therapy
By Lakin Green, public relations intern for Banner Health
GILBERT, Ariz. -- It’s not every day you meet someone who looks forward to getting poked with needles but surprisingly, Carolene Davis is one of those who does.
Davis, 52, has gynecologic cancer, a disease that affects the tissues and organs of her reproductive system. As Davis lies on the comfortable chairs in the infusion area at Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center, she receives her chemotherapy treatment and acupuncture both at the same time.
The gentle poke from the acupuncture needles are placed in various parts of her body including her face, ankles and ears relieving her joint pain, some back pain, nausea and sinus problems from the chemotherapy.
“I got (acupuncture) today and I haven’t even sneezed once,” Davis laughs during her treatment – the chemotherapy drugs coursing through her body attacking the cancer cells that are making her sick. “I truly believe you benefit from acupuncture.”
Jennifer Moore, one of two full-time acupuncturists at Banner MD Anderson, said the demand for the free service has drastically increased since hospitals began using this therapy about a decade ago.
“There have been clinical studies conducted that acupuncture may help relieve some of the side-effects of the chemotherapy drugs,” Moore said. “Everyone is different when it comes to the results, but when combined with chemotherapy treatment, acupuncture can make the whole experience easier and less stressful for the patient.”
It’s a long day for Davis as she gets her chemotherapy – eight hours of treatment to help save her life, but the acupuncture needles stay in her skin for only 20 minutes. A needle in her wrist can build immunity in her lungs and help prevent from catching a cold or getting the flu. Needles in her ankles can help support her liver, spleen and kidneys to filter toxins and strengthen digestion.
The day after chemotherapy, Davis will get a shot to help stimulate the growth of healthy white blood cells in her bone marrow. Although this can cause pain, the acupuncture Davis is getting may help alleviate a lot of the discomfort from that shot.
Moore said that many patients are open to acupuncture therapy when they learn it’s virtually painless, and may help them feel better after the chemotherapy treatments.
“Chemotherapy may be prescribed to some patients to help battle their diseases. My goal is to help manage the side effects of the treatment and any pain they may be experiencing from their disease. The important thing though is that they talk with their doctor to find out what side effects may occur so that we can best customize their acupuncture session,” Moore said.