Acupuncture in
cancer care

Acupuncture is widely used in supportive cancer care and can help alleviate some of the side effects from cancer treatments.

Acupuncture can be used to help manage:

  • • Hot flushes due to hormone therapies
  • • Dry mouth from radiotherapy
  • • Persistent pain after surgery
  • • Nausea from chemotherapy
  • • Peripheral neuropathy from chemotherapy
  • • Breathlessness
  • • Fatigue

  • In addition, many people find that acupuncture promotes a sense of wellbeing which may help people who are feeling stressed or anxious.

    Acupuncture during a course of chemotherapy

    Acupuncture can help manage some of the side effects of chemotherapy such as nausea and fatigue. However, chemotherapy can temporarily reduce a person’s immunity because it works by destroying fast-growing cells, which include white blood cells. This effect on immunity usually occurs within 3-7 days following administration of chemotherapy. While it is often possible to receive acupuncture while having chemotherapy, the medical team should be consulted to make sure it is safe and appropriate.

    Acupuncture during a course of radiotherapy

    It is usually safe to have acupuncture during a course of radiotherapy. Needles cannot be used in the tissues which have been exposed to radiation as healing will be slower and so the infection risk is greater.

    Acupuncture and lymphoedema

    If you have had lymph nodes in your armpit or groin surgically removed or damaged
    through radiotherapy, you cannot have cannot have acupuncture in the arm or leg on
    that side because of the increased risk of lymphoedema.

    Where can people with cancer have acupuncture?

    People with cancer can often access acupuncture services free of charge at local supportive care centres. If you have had cancer, you can usually refer yourself for supportive care without the need for a doctor’s referral. In Greater Manchester, Beechwood Cancer Care, the Maggie Centre and the Neil Cliffe Centre all offer acupuncture.

    Ask a member of your cancer team if you aren't sure whether you can have acupuncture.