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Questions About Cancer? 1-800-4-CANCER

Acupuncture (PDQ®)

  • Last Modified: 03/21/2012

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  • Acupuncture applies needles, heat, pressure, and other treatments to one or more places on the skin known as acupuncture points (see Question 1).

  • Acupuncture has been used in China and other Asian countries for thousands of years as part of traditional Chinese medicine (see Question 2).

  • Acupuncture has been used in the United States for about 200 years (see Question 2).

  • Acupuncture is used to treat many illnesses and ailments; however, it is mainly used to control pain, including cancer pain, and to help control nausea and vomiting. (see Question 2).

  • There is strong evidence from clinical trials that acupuncture relieves nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy (see Question 7).

  • Acupuncture may work by causing physical responses in nerve cells, the pituitary gland, and parts of the brain (see Question 4).

  • Laboratory and animal studies of acupuncture for cancer treatment suggest acupuncture can reduce vomiting caused by chemotherapy and may help a person's immune system work better (see Question 6).

  • The most acupuncture research on cancer has been done in China (see Question 7).

  • Most acupuncture research with cancer patients studies the use of acupuncture to relieve symptoms caused by cancer treatment (see Question 7).

  • It is important that acupuncture treatment be given by a qualified practitioner who uses a new set of disposable (single-use) needles for each patient (see Question 8 ).