Judy Bowen-Jones

Cancer & Palliative Care – How Acupuncture Can Help

Supporting Cancer Patients & Palliative Care

Many cancer patients experience significant levels of pain and other symptoms. Breast cancer and endometrial cancer patients may experience hot flushes. Patients undergoing chemotherapy frequently suffer from nausea and vomiting and feeling the cold. Reduced levels of white blood cells resulting from cancer treatments may reduce your immunity. Cancer and palliative care patients may also suffer from stress, anxiety, depression, general ill health, a dry mouth, breathlessness weakness and fatigue.

Acupuncture in Cancer & Palliative Care

Acupuncture treatment is believed to stimulate the nervous system and cause physiological changes in the body. It may specifically benefit symptoms associated with cancer, cancer treatment and advanced progressive illnesses by:

  • Acting on the brain to reduce sensitivity to pain and stress
  • Altering the body’s mood chemistry through the release of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin
  • Reversing stress induced changes in behaviour and biochemistry
  • Release of endorphins, the body’s natural pain killers
  • Reducing inflammation and swelling
  • Increasing blood circulation
  • Enhancing immunity
  • Regulating neurological control of the gastrointestinal system to help relieve nausea and vomiting

Acupuncture is widely used for the treatment of chronic pain including cancer pain.


There is significant evidence for the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating nausea and vomiting, particularly for post-operative nausea and vomiting and for chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting.

A World Health Organization review and analysis of reports on controlled acupuncture clinical trials (2003) lists “adverse reactions to radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy” as “symptoms for which acupuncture has been proved through controlled trials to be an effective treatment”.

See also:

Treating Cancer & Palliative Care

“In addition to helping with some of the distressing symptoms of advanced illness, such as pain, fatigue or nausea, acupuncture can help patients cope, by reducing stress and anxiety and increasing their quality of life.”

World Health Organization 2003. Acupuncture: Review and Analysis on Controlled Clinical Trials – http://apps.who.int/medicinedocs/pdf/s4926e/s4926e.pdf

Research Fact Sheets

For more information see the British Acupuncture Council Research Fact Sheets below.