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Study: Using Acupuncture to Treat Chemo Side Effects for Breast Cancer Patients

Updated: Tuesday, March 18 2014, 03:38 PM EDT

Acupuncture has been practiced in China and other Asian countries for thousands of years. Research has shown the practice can reduce nausea and vomiting after chemotherapy and it can also relieve pain.

Now doctors are looking to see if it can help certain breast cancer patients.

When Titi Ariyo was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer, her doctors put her on a treatment that caused her to have some serious side effects.

"I had joint pain, my knees and my ankles and my entire body just hurt," Ariyo said.

Her physicians recommended she take part in a trial study that looked at acupuncture as a way to relieve some of her pain. She says it worked.

"I was sleeping better and also the pain reduced," Ariyo said.

Experts say more than 60% of women with early stage breast cancer suffer from hot flashes, joint and muscle pain and depression caused by their treatment. If acupuncture can help these patients with some of their discomfort, experts believe it could eventually be used as therapy along with the medication.

What they found was both patients who were treated with acupuncture and sham acupuncture, which involves retractable needles that are not placed in acupuncture pressure points, said they felt some relief.

Dr. Ting Bao of the University of Maryland School of Medicine theorizes that the pricks from both real and sham acupuncture needles may stimulate the body, which can relieve pain.

"Our trial definitely shows there are minimum side effects," Bao said. "This can potentially help them have significant symptom improvement, both in musculoskeletal symptoms and also hot flashes."

Study: Using Acupuncture to Treat Chemo Side Effects for Breast Cancer Patients

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