Cancer treatment, as well as the illness itself, can be a source of chronic pain, stress, and anemia, significantly contributing to increased fatigue in patients. Additionally, those experiencing nausea post-chemotherapy may not maintain a nutritious diet, adversely impacting their energy levels.
Post-Chemotherapy Fatigue Relief Strategies
In a groundbreaking study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, Alexander Molassiotis of the University of Manchester and his team focused on 227 women with moderate to high levels of cancer-associated fatigue, who underwent a six-week treatment involving acupuncture sessions. Concurrently, 75 women not receiving this therapy were observed as a control group.
All participants had been treated for breast cancer with chemotherapy in the five years before the study. The majority had suffered from chronic tiredness for over a year. At the study’s outset, they were provided with an informational pamphlet on cancer-related fatigue.
After six weeks, a significant decrease in fatigue levels was recorded among the women undergoing acupuncture. Specifically, a reduction of at least four points on a 0 to 20 scale was noted, in contrast to a decline of less than one point in the control group.
Molassiotis’s team concluded that acupuncture is an effective intervention for combating chemotherapy-related fatigue symptoms and enhancing patients’ quality of life.
According to Dr. Amit Sood of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, the improvement was mild to moderate. However, it was sufficient to enable extremely fatigued individuals, who previously could not exercise, to begin engaging in physical activity.
Acupuncture and Mental Health
Beyond its impact on fatigue, levels of anxiety and depression, measured on a scale from 0 to 21, significantly decreased following acupuncture, compared to women who only received educational material. This study suggests that acupuncture may positively affect the emotional and physical well-being of patients.
However, the study did not definitively establish whether the needles alone were responsible for these benefits. Researchers could not entirely rule out the placebo effect, that is, symptom improvement due to the patients’ generated expectations.
Persistent Fatigue in Cancer Patients
An article related to the study highlights that about one-third of cancer patients experience persistent fatigue, which can continue for years after treatment. Doctors often recommend moderate exercise and psychotherapy to improve energy, according to Julienne Bower, from the University of California in Los Angeles.
Carol Enderlin, from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, suggested that acupuncture could be a useful complement to these practices. She recommended maintaining tolerable physical activity, following a balanced diet, ensuring adequate sleep, and considering complementary options in case of chronic fatigue.
The study conducted by Molassiotis and his team opens a promising path in the treatment of cancer-related fatigue, particularly in post-chemotherapy patients.
Although more research is needed to fully understand the mechanism behind the observed benefits, preliminary results indicate that acupuncture can be a valuable tool for improving the quality of life of these patients.
On the other hand, cancer patients must receive comprehensive counseling that includes nutritional, psychological, and physical exercise strategies, in addition to complementary therapies like acupuncture.
This multidisciplinary approach promotes a more effective management of fatigue and other symptoms associated with cancer treatment, contributing to a more comprehensive and satisfying recovery.