September 6th 2021

As we all know, chemotherapy is incredibly successful in treating many forms of cancer, particularly breast cancer. However, despite the effectiveness chemotherapy often leaves the body in a state of imbalance which leads people to seek alternative methods to restore their bodies once finishing their courses of chemotherapy. One of our patients at East to West Wellness Center is a young woman who is a breast cancer survivor- she sought treatment after chemotherapy. Chemotherapy had left her with full body neuropathy that she described as an almost internal itching sensation that occurred in her entire body with additional numbness in the hands and feet. This patient also began entering what is commonly known as medical menopause which was interrupting her daily life.

The CDC states that breast cancer is the second most common chance in women in the United States, nearly every 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their life. Commonly chemotherapy and radiation in conjunction with surgery are the standard for treating breast cancer, but there are few treatments to treat the side effects that occur as a result of these harsh treatments. As per Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, peripheral neuropathy is a very common side effect occurring in those receiving chemotherapy. Peripheral neuropathy is a nerve disorder that can cause weakness, numbness, pain and tingling, mostly concentrated in the hands and feet. MSKCC recommends that patients seek acupuncture to treat this common side effect. After two months of consistent weekly treatments this patient expressed that the internal itching sensation had dissipated and the only neuropathy that remained was a slight numbness in her fingertips and slight discomfort in the feet if improper shoes were worn. Despite the lingering neuropathy in the fingertips the patient expressed that her symptoms decreased in intensity significantly since treatment began. We got this result by directly stimulating the patients nerves that had been aggravated by chemotherapy, we stimulated the regeneration of nervous tissue by needling in local areas such as the hands and feet, as well as some body points to have a more systemic effect.

When the neuropathy subsided this patient wanted to address some of the other imbalances chemotherapy had left her with, the most pressing being early menopause. Medical Menopause is also a fairly common side effect of chemotherapy. This is because while the chemotherapy destroys rapidly producing cancer cells it also may damage a premenopausal women’s ovaries. This usually happens over the course of a few weeks or months causing very intense symptoms for young women who would not normally be going through menopause at this age. In most cases of young women this is not permanent menopause and some ovarian function may be restored. Some symptoms of this early menopause may be hot flashes, night sweats, and slowed or irregular digestion, all of which were experienced by our patient. This patient was also about to begin Lupron injections to block the body’s estrogen production. After a few treatments these symptoms diminished to only a few hot flashes / nights of sweating per week. This was done by naturally restoring the balance of the bodies hormones which is the basis of most gynecological acupuncture treatments.

Anna Craddock, Student of Acupuncture

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