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  Articles by Alex Tatevian
Acupuncture in the Multidisciplinary Cancer Treatment Setting
by Alex Tatevian, DA
Southern New England Health Care Review; 2001, Vol. 11, Issue 3.;
The relationship between alternative and traditional medicine has been carefully researched and nurtured in Rhode Island. Alternative medical practices have become widely embraced by patients and the healthcare industry. As popularity and demand have increased, so has the range of treatments being offered in mainstream settings such as Woman and Infants' Hospital.

When the medical staff of the Women's Oncology Program surveyed their patients in 1994 about the need for complimentary medical therapies, the response was overwhelmingly favorable. Today this Women and Infants' program aptly named Complimenting Care offers a full range of services for patients who are in the midst of active treatment, for those who are recovering, and their families. It remains the only program of its kind in the state of Rhode Island.

Dr. Cornelius O. "Skip" Granai, Director of the Program in Women’s Oncology and a gynecological surgeon at Women and Infants' created and supports the Complimenting Care team. Dr. Granai writes, " As currently organized, medicine finds itself in increasingly anachronistic boxes, more cynically described as turfs. In many clinical instances, turfdom has its roots in the logic of history, but over time such compartmentalization can approach irrelevance and even become counterproductive. This phenomenon, as well as its consequences, is occasionally apparent in cancer management. Into what medical-box does "cancer", its practice and administration, fit? "

The Complimenting Care program breaks through this anachronistic paradigm, offering patients a broad spectrum of holistic treatments. While not a substitute for proven cancer treatments, the program offers thoughtfully selected therapies including acupuncture, chiropractic, therapeutic massage, meditation, hypnotherapy, aroma therapy, seaweed body wraps, foot massage nutrition and wellness, an art support group, breast cancer support group, an ovarian cancer support group, an animal companion program, and a poetry project that sooth the adverse side effects that cancer treatment and its aftermath often bring.

Acupuncture has been a part of this program since September of 2000. Acupuncture is the stimulation of specific points on the body by insertion of hair-thin, sterile single use needles or by other means of physical stimulation. Acupuncture is very effective in treating the symptoms of nausea, vomiting, anxiety, fatigue and pain. In 1997, the National Institute of Health's consensus panel endorsed acupuncture's effectiveness in these areas. Acupuncture is a useful adjunct to cancer treatment, enabling patients to remain on schedule with their chemotherapy protocols. I believe that acupuncture may improve the quality of life of the patient, and beyond that, positively influence the clinical outcome of the treatment. This statement must be supported by additional committed research programs to collect and analyze data.

MedLine yields over 6,000 articles about acupuncture. Of the 2,302 acupuncture studies recently cited in a 158 page bibliography published by the National Institutes of Health, at least 81 of them were directly related to the use of acupuncture to prevent nausea and vomiting. The advantage of acupuncture is that it has no adverse side effects. The adverse side effects of commonly used antiemetics are primarily restlessness, drowsiness, fatigue, diarrhea, headache, and hypotension.

A well-controlled study completed at the UCLA School of Medicine reported significant reduction of nausea and vomiting among chemotherapy cancer patients when pre-treated with acupuncture. It is now routinely administered before, after, and between chemotherapy treatment sessions for control of nausea and vomiting. Its effectiveness helps in minimizing the use of standard, expensive multi-drug anti-nausea regimens with their attendant side effects, given along with the chemotherapy agents.
In Rhode Island, many women and their families have maintained their integrity and recaptured their strength through grueling, frightening, and uncertain times. The entire Complimenting Care team and staff of the Program in Women's Oncology are to be commended for providing a life-enhancing program.

Alex Tatevian, DA.

Southern New England Health Care Review, 2001, Vol. 11, Issue 3.

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