For cancer patients, UC Health's acupuncture treatments help curb side effects of chemotherapy

CINCINNATI -- A new treatment may help local cancer patients cope with the side effects of chemotherapy.

UC Health Integrative Medicine team is bringing acupuncture to chemotherapy infusion sites to help relieve stress during treatments.

Licensed acupuncturist Derek Johnson said acupuncture can improve overall circulation, easing chemo drugs out of the system after they’ve killed cancer cells. 

Johnson said many people are skeptical being punctured with tiny needles will help relieve symptoms.

“It’s almost like a deer caught in the headlights because it’s the last thing they expect while they’re at their conventional treatment,” Johnson said.

But acupuncture can be an effective method in dealing with the pain, stress and nausea associated with chemo, Johnson said.

It worked for breast cancer survivor Mary Hoffman.

Hoffman experienced neuropathy, or damage to peripheral nerves, from chemotherapy. She says acupuncture helped with the tingling and numbness of her extremities.

Hoffman said Johnson placed five needles in her ear during her first treatment, and it helped her relax during infusion. Since, she has decided to go for more extensive treatments.

“I don’t walk out of here and it’s gone, but I feel very relaxed with the treatment and I feel like it’s keeping the neuropathy from really having a strong hold on me,” Hoffman said. “If you offer me this, that this may help along the line, I can’t imagine not taking advantage of it.”

As of now, acupuncture treatments are only available to a select group of patients. UC Health hopes to expand so patients like Hoffman can give acupuncture a shot.

“I was like, ‘Bring it on. Let me try it. Let’s see what it does,’” Hoffman said.

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