Natural and complementary treatments for cancer are rapidly growing in use and popularity. While many people undergo conventional treatments such as chemo or radiation, natural and integrative therapies can be very effective in reducing some of the difficult side effects of conventional treatments.
One common side effect that I see in cancer patients is damage to the mouth and oral mucosa after head and neck radiation. This can be an extremely painful condition causing excess mucous production, dry mouth and the inability to eat and swallow. It is very important to promote the healing of the mouth sores since it often prevents a person from eating which decreases the ability to maintain weight and take in essential nutrients. As part of a naturopathic treatment plan, acupuncture can be used to reduce pain and improve symptoms of dry mouth.
A very recent study was published this year reporting weekly acupuncture improved symtoms of dry mouth after radiation treatment. After 8 weeks the patients found they did not have to wake at night as often and had less sticky saliva.
It is great to see that studies are being conducted on natural treatments that are being used to support cancer patients. Acupuncture can be a great tool to address both energetic and physical symptoms. It is often a key part of my treatment plans as a supportive therapy. In the case of mouth sores after chemo or radiation it can help reduce symptoms and promote healing when used along side of other natural therapies such as intravenous vitamin C, glutamine and a herbal mouth rinse.
For more information about how natural and conventional treatments can fit together please see the cancer section of my website.
Simcock R, et al. ARIX: a randomised trial of acupuncture v oral care sessions in patients with chronic xerostomia following treatment of head and neck cancer. Ann Oncol. 2013 Mar;24(3):776-83.
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