Improved Quality of Life After Breast Cancer Treatments
Cancer has touched the lives of almost everyone, either directly or indirectly. Many of us have had to help a loved one navigate the side-effects of the treatments that are integral in the journey from diagnosis to recovery. Others know somebody who has had to endure such an experience. Or maybe the experience has been more personal… maybe it has been first person.
Lymphedema is a well-known symptom that is associated with cancer treatments, particularly in those who have battled breast cancer. As a result of the removal of lymph nodes, or damage that has occurred to lymph nodes as a result of treatment, the circulation within the lymphatic system becomes obstructed, thereby causing fluid to back-up resulting in swelling of the limbs. This swelling can be uncomfortable causing aches, heaviness, or a tight sensation within the affected areas.
Treatment often comes in the form of symptom management, as there is no cure for the condition. Some patients are prescribed water pill to help with the fluid buildup (which are known to have a plethora of side-effects all their own), while surgery to remove problematic tissue is recommended in the most severe of cases. Nevertheless, the key to minimizing the discomfort resides in proper management.
Studies conducted at the Affiliated Hospital of Nanjing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine and the Daegu Catholic University Medical Center in Daegu, Korea give an indication that acupuncture is a viable treatment option for managing the symptoms of lymphedema and, if a proper regimen is established, helps to improve the patient’s quality of life.
In the study conducted at Nanjing University, participants in the experimental group were administered specialized acupuncture treatments for a period of 30 minutes over the course of 30 days. At the end of the study, the range of motion experienced by those who received the specialized treatments was shown to have improved as compared to those in the control group.
Similarly, the study conducted at Daegu Catholic University Medical Center administered 3 times per weeks at 30-minute intervals for a 6-week period. At the conclusion of the study, significant reduction in the circumference of the affected limbs was observed which resulted in improved range of motion, less profound symptoms, and greater quality of life.
As always, it is important to discuss any decisions regarding your or your loved one’s symptoms management regimen with your primary care health provider and any other health care specialist who is helping to oversee your care. Acupuncture treatments should only be administered by a licensed practitioner who is experienced and can provide you or your loved one with a proper consultation and treatment plan.
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