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First acupuncture clinic for cancer patients

The first acupuncture clinic dedicated to helping patients deal with the aftereffects of cancer treatment opens in London on 12 October 2023.

Beverley de Valois PhD, one of the foremost authorities in the western world on using acupuncture for cancer survivors, has spent the past 25 years researching how the treatment can manage aftereffects of cancer treatments including hot flushes, night sweats, fatigue, chronic pain, anxiety and dry mouth.

Her new clinic, hosted by the London Acupuncture Clinic in Wimpole Street, London is the first clinic dedicated to cancer survivorship post-treatment.

Up to 25% of cancer survivors experience long term consequences of cancer and its treatment, which are often not adequately addressed by the healthcare system.

Dr de Valois said: “Many survivors are told that nothing can be done to alleviate their symptoms and that they need to learn to live with them. But numerous research studies show that acupuncture can help alleviate these symptoms and the evidence base is sufficiently robust for prestigious oncology organisations to recommend acupuncture as a treatment option for the consequences of cancer and its treatments.”

Many cancer survivors, who have faced complex aftereffects of cancer and its treatments report dramatic improvements in their lives following acupuncture.

Valerie Fear, from Hertfordshire, developed lymphoedema in her arm following treatment for breast cancer in 2000. This led to her experiencing high anxiety, she lost her self-confidence and found it difficult to sleep. At one point her arm was 40% bigger than the other and she was in a lot of pain. There is no known cure for the condition, and while acupuncture does not address lymphoedema itself, it has been shown to be effective in dealing with the associated emotional issues and pain.

Mrs Fear, now 75, was referred to Dr de Valois for acupuncture treatment by her lymphoedema nurse specialist and her life was transformed.

She said: “I was hesitant about having acupuncture at first because I thought it would hurt. But it didn’t. Just occasionally I experienced a funny tingling sensation but it relaxed me and made me calm and the long-term benefits I have had from it have been enormous.”

Mrs Fear said acupuncture enabled her to regain control of her emotions, improve her self-confidence and she was eventually able to get a proper night’s sleep.
“My life is back in balance because of the acupuncture. The pain in my arm is also much better and it has stayed that way. I am back in control.”

Dr de Valois said: “Val’s case demonstrates the breadth and depth of the effects of acupuncture, and how a discrete series of treatments can address the complex presentation of a breast cancer survivor as well as how acupuncture can augment specialist care of cancer treatment-related lymphoedema. She benefited physically and emotionally, and the effects of this relatively short course of treatment have served her for many years now.”

Dr de Valois has recently published a book: “Acupuncture and Cancer Survivorship: Recovery, Renewal and Transformation”. In it she argues that acupuncture should be part of the multi-disciplinary care of cancer survivors, as it can offer a non-pharmacological approach that sometimes equals the effectiveness of conventional drugs.

Studies have reported, for example, that acupuncture is as effective as venlafaxine and gabapentin for managing breast cancer treatment related hot flushes, with fewer side effects and less rebound effect after treatment1 2.

A second cancer survivorship is due to open in Reading in January 2024.

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