Going Under The Needle: Cancer Pain

FRESNO, Calif.

A few years ago, 83-year-old Janet Davis was enjoying her plane, and her retirement. She flew wherever and whenever she wanted, but a second mastectomy grounded her last April. Now, she's fighting the effects of bone cancer, chemo, and radiation, just one of the 1.5 million folks who suffer from cancer pain each year.

The University of North Carolina medical school's doctor Jongbae J. Park, K.M.D, Ph.D., stepped-in to help. His solution was acupuncture. Janet would rather have needles than painkillers.

Doctor Park inserts thin needles into specific acupuncture points on the skin, 365 in all. The goal is to stimulate the nervous system and release natural painkillers like adenosine.

"It reduces the pain. It's just not there anymore," Davis said.

"As treatment effect of acupuncture becomes noticeable patients start to reduce their narcotics or pain killers," Dr. Park explained.

The proof? Studies show acupuncture alone cut post-chemotherapy fatigue by 31 percent. It also cut hot flashes by 50 percent, and slashed overall cancer pain by 36 percent.

"Initially she had pain, but not anymore," Dr. Park explained.

It's no cure, but it's working for Janet and honestly, that's all she needs.

"What more can I ask?" Davis said.

It can take as many as six half-hour sessions for patients to notice a difference in their pain level. Still, this is not a cancer cure by any means, and detractors routinely point that out. Currently, Dr. Park is studying acupuncture's effects on stroke and irritable bowel syndrome as well.

If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marsha Hitchcock at mhitchcock@ivanhoe.com.

Jongbae J. Park, KMD, PhD
Department of Physical Medicine and Rehab
University of North Carolina
Chapel Hill, NC
(919) 942-6969

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