During the month of November The Movember Foundation, a worldwide mustache-growing event, raises awareness for men's health issues like prostate cancer.
According to The American Cancer Society, one out of every seven men will get prostate cancer during his lifetime. While standard treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation and hormone therapy can be successful with early detection, but the side effects are often uncomfortable or painful. For this reason, more and more physicians in the U.S. are turning to Eastern medicine to help ease patients through treatment.
In my acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practice, I help countless patients manage the side effects of prostate cancer treatment, and many other men's health issues like bladder problems, Chronic Prostatitis (CP) and Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndrome (CPPS).
In honor of Movember, here's how an East-meets-West approach can help ease the symptoms and side effects of cancer treatment, and improve health overall.
A standard treatment for prostate cancer, chemotherapy uses drugs to inhibit the growth of cancer cells. Its side effects are well documented, including nausea, sore joints, dry mouth, hot flashes and fatigue.
Acupuncture and electro-acupuncture can help relieve these discomforts by calming the nervous system and creating homeostasis (balance) in the body. They're used to trigger the release of powerful pain-relieving brain chemicals and "feel-good" hormones. As an alternative to needles, acupressure, or even cold laser acupuncture — a newer therapy — can be administered to achieve similar effects.
Typically used in conjunction with radiation, hormone therapy works to keep cancer cells from growing by removing or blocking the action of certain hormones. Hot flashes and night sweats, depression, nausea and fatigue are among the adverse side effects.
Clinical studies have shown that acupuncture can be beneficial in treating side effects and hot flashes in patients undergoing hormone therapy for prostate cancer. Chinese herbal compounds, used frequently in TCM, also serve as a beneficial adjunct therapy.
Urinary Urgency and Bladder Instability
Urinary problems, including frequency, urgency, incontinence and pain, are common in patients with prostate cancer, due to the disease itself, and as a side effect of cancer treatments like radiation and prostate surgery.
Acupuncture has traditionally been used as a highly effective method for treating a variety of bladder problems. Today, an increasing number of urologists are adopting this ancient modality. Acupuncture helps alleviate symptoms such as urgency and bladder instability or "urge incontinence", by modulating bladder function and reducing inflammation. It also helps with sensations of urgency by stimulating the production of endorphins.
Chronic Prostatitis (CP) and Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndrome (CPPS)
Impacting up to 10% of adult men, CP and CPPS are commonly identified by intense pelvic pain. And because many of the available Western medical treatments offer minimal success, these disorders are also notoriously difficult to treat. This is starting to change, as more practitioners discover the benefits of acupuncture.
In a well-documented 2008 study, 89 patients with CP/CPPS were divided into two groups, one treated with acupuncture and the other with sham (or placebo) acupuncture. At the end of the 10-week study, 73% of the acupuncture patients reported improvement in their symptoms, while only 47% of the sham group participants experienced relief.
Used in conjunction with Western treatments, Eastern medicine offers reliable and extremely safe ways to maintain good prostate health and alleviate the pain and uncomfortable side effects associated with a variety of men's health issues.