There are few up to speed clinicians these days that will argue acupuncture is hocus pocus in cancer medicine. If they do, the rest of us will point to this paper, and this one, and this one..and those are just a few.
Now, Western clinicians are accepting that acupuncture does good things for pain, nausea, and well-being in cancer patients.
Since I have always advocated an approach that capitalizes on all weapons, including diet, supplements (like the one I put together), lifestyle, quality of life, and every other possible edge to help dogs in need, I think we should really look at acupuncture for veterinary patients.
But an interesting question is floating around these days and I thought I could put my two cents in.
Could acupuncture make cancer worse?
Ouch. Why would anyone say that? Well, the argument is that acupuncture helps to stimulate blood flow. And yes, that is true. So is that bad?
Well, here’s the argument that suggests it is bad: if we stimulate blood flow in the body, that stimulates tumor spread. In other words, more metastasis and happier tumors because the blood is flowing all over, supporting tumor growth and seeding new cancer cells everywhere.
Folks, I’ve got to say, I disagree. True, at some point later I might adopt a new viewpoint based on new data, but for now I am going to argue against it.
Here is my position:
1. We know that tumor blood flow is disorganized. We do not know that blood flow within tumors responds to the signals from acupuncture. So that’s an assumption that we don’t know is true. Assumptions can lead to incorrect arguments.
2. We know that increased blood flow can be caused by acupuncture. But we don’t know that this means a higher rate of metastasis or tumor growth as we are not certain that it means more oxygen in the tumor itself. At this stage that is guessing and conjecture, nothing more. So again, an assumption that we don’t know is true.
3. We do know that increased blood flow results in more oxygen delivery to normal body parts (like the neighborhood around the tumor), as long as the body is able to take in more oxygen, and the heart can pump it around normally.
Now, the thing that seems to have been forgotten is that there are these little white cells around tumors that burrow tiny tunnels, or spaces, around the tumors. These white cells gobble out holes so the tumors can expand and grow into them, and recruit blood vessels from the body to help feed the tumor.
These little guys are called Tumor Associated Macrophages (TAM’s). As it turns out, more TAM’s are reliable pointers to a worse prognosis.
So what does this mean? And this key… it means that more blood flow would make more oxygen around tumors (in the tissue adjacent to the tumor) and less TAM’s, which would mean a better prognosis. Since acupuncture creates more blood flow, it could be argued that this blood flow would be beneficial for cancer patients, not harmful.
Since acupuncture seems to help, and the argument that it worsens cancer seems as bullet proof as a slice of sponge cake, I would not turn away from this potentially useful tool.
What do you think?
If you like this kind of thinking, you will love The Dog Cancer Survival Guide.
As always, get input from your oncologist and veterinary acupuncture practitioner to see if acupuncture is suitable for your unique dog.
Best to all,
Dr. Demian Dressler is internationally recognized as “the dog cancer vet” because of his innovations in the field of dog cancer management, and the popularity of his blog here at Dog Cancer Blog. The owner of South Shore Veterinary Care, a full-service veterinary hospital in Maui, Hawaii, Dr. Dressler studied Animal Physiology and received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of California at Davis before earning his Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Cornell University. After practicing at Killewald Animal Hospital in Amherst, New York, he returned to his home state, Hawaii, to practice at the East Honolulu Pet Hospital before heading home to Maui to open his own hospital. Dr. Dressler consults both dog lovers and veterinary professionals, and is sought after as a speaker on topics ranging from the links between lifestyle choices and disease, nutrition and cancer, and animal ethics. His television appearances include “Ask the Vet” segments on local news programs. He is the author of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Full Spectrum Treatments to Optimize Your Dog’s Life Quality and Longevity. He is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Hawaii Veterinary Medical Association, the American Association of Avian Veterinarians, the National Animal Supplement Council and CORE (Comparative Orthopedic Research Evaluation). He is also an advisory board member for Pacific Primate Sanctuary.