A different approach of treatment for breast cancer

October 1, 2010 3:07:38 PM PDT
Diane Miller is having acupuncture for a complication of removing her right breast for breast cancer.

"We're using acupuncture to encourage her body to a better water metabolism and open up a different pathway for the redistribution of the fluid in her body," said Dr. Yi Hung Chan, DPM of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

The fluid builds up in Diane's arm because, during the breast surgery, doctors had to remove lymph nodes in the armpit. Fluid backs up in the arm. Diane uses a multicolored compression bandage to squeeze it back toward the heart, and other things.

"I tried some massage. I tried exercise, and exercise does help, but it is a trial and error process," Miller said.

Talk about trial and error, acupuncture was studied in a trial of 29 patients to make sure that the needles did not produce infection in the arm were fluid flow was obviously abnormal.

The result?

No infections, and even some benefit with less swelling and pain. Therefore, memorial hospital did a pilot study.

"We found that in half the patients there was a thirty percent reduction in the affected arm," Dr. Barrie Cassileth of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center states.

Diane's arm is custom treated based on her symptoms for 30 minutes.

"I get to lie here and meditate for 30 minutes. So it's something you look forward to," said Diane Miller.

Besides the needles, Diane says she must continue massage and exercise. Otherwise, the arm swelling returns. The good news is that acupuncture helps.