Dr. Karen Lam T.C.M. Integrative Naturopathic Medical Centre Naturopath YVR
3 min|Dr. Karen Lam

Acupuncture: A Vital Part of Integrative Cancer Care


Today Dr. Karen Lam contributes to our blog with a post about the use of Traditional Chinese Medicine within an integrative cancer treatment plan. Dr. Karen Lam is a Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine as well as a licensed acupuncturist. She has been practicing for close to 20 years and has a special interest in fertility, women's health, anti-aging, and pain management.

Cancer or Liu is recognized in Chinese texts dating back to the 16th century and is described as the result of chronic stagnation of the bodily fluids, the meridian energy systems and the Qi life force itself.

The use of acupuncture and herbs has spread worldwide and today acupuncture is used as a supportive therapy that can be used alongside standard of care chemotherapy and radiation. Acupuncture improves energy and vitality in cancer patients but is also particularly useful in mitigating the side effects and symptoms from conventional treatments.

Symptoms like:

  • Pain
  • Fatigue and insomnia
  • Nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy
  • Weight loss and loss of appetite
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Dry mouth and mouth sores
  • Hot flashes
  • Nerve issues like neuralgia and neuropathy
  • Constipation and diarrhea

Pain, fatigue and nausea are the most common and effectively treated symptoms.

Acupuncture helps by balancing the Qi energy and the immune system. It may cause physical responses in nerve cells, the pituitary gland and other parts of the brain. Acupuncture affects blood pressure and body temperature, supports immune system activity, and causes the body's natural painkillers, such as endorphins, to be released. In Chinese medicine theory, the Qi and Yin (nutritive energy), becomes depleted during cancer, making it difficult for the body to expend energy to digest nutrients and absorb treatment needed to support the body healing process.

Chemotherapy and radiation are viewed as being scorching and hot in the body and while this kills cancer cells it also depletes Yin energy. Acupuncture helps to restore this balance and recent studies show that acupuncture is a safe, viable, effective supportive treatment for those undergoing Cancer therapies.

During each acupuncture session the acupuncturist or Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine will assess and review current symptoms and other cancer treatments. Specific physical exams like Chinese pulse and tongue diagnosis also contribute to the personally tailored acupuncture point prescription. After carefully selecting the appropriate points sterile, single-use acupuncture needles are applied for approximately 20 minutes.

At Integrative we create a healing environment so our patients can rest while receiving their acupuncture treatments. We also have the facilities to provide acupuncture in conjunction with our other cancer treatments like IV therapy. After an acupuncture treatment most people feel calmer, have improved appetite and better sleep. Acupuncture works on the meridian system and this unique approach means there are no negative interactions with conventional treatments.

It is a great complement and works excellently as an adjunctive cancer therapy.

On-line article for further reading:
The Value of Acupuncture in Cancer Care - NCBI
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