The Effect of Acupuncture on the Immune System

By Craig Amrine

Cancer. The big “C”. There are few words more effective in filling us with fear or dread. Virtually all of us have either been directly affected by cancer or have had someone very close to us affected by cancer. The word “cancer” is an umbrella term describing a large variety of diseases all with one thing in common; a “growth” or “neoplasm” characterized by abnormal or uncontrolled growth of cells within the body. For various reasons, the standard cell growth and death cycle gets out of control and these abnormal cells may spread throughout the body (metastasis) and infect other cells.

While reported cases are still on the rise for certain cancers, increased vigilance and advanced treatment protocols have vastly increased the survivability of most cancers. Specifically, detection and treatment in the early stages have played a large role in surviving cancer.

Normally, we are constantly bombarded with any number of bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Internally, we have a standard number of abnormal cells that may, if left unchecked, ultimately manifest as cancer. Fortunately, our immune system is usually effective in fighting and destroying these invaders or rogue cells. Our bodies are battle grounds of sorts. Fortunately….most of the time….our bodies are victorious; our immune system destroys the invaders or cancer cells and we go on with our daily lives.

When we get sick, however, it is most commonly the result of our immune system becoming overwhelmed. Either the invading virus, bacteria, parasite, or cancer cells proliferate at such a rapid rate that our immune response is unable to match the onslaught, or our standard immune response has been compromised/altered…..either by the invading cells/antigens themselves or by some other factor such as prolonged stress.

Conventional therapies for fighting cancer including chemo-therapy that are designed to kill very rapidly dividing cells…such as cancer cells. The problem however, is that chemo-therapy is not too specific and will also target virtually ANY rapidly dividing cells including both white and red blood cells as well as hair follicles. Ironically, this can lead to lowering the immune system and thus lead to a large host of other health-risks.

Cancer Treatments: Treatment and prevention of cancer, be it through conventional or non-conventional treatments is a HUGE topic. There are medical doctors, oncologists, naturopaths, and experts of Traditional Chinese Medicine who spend their entire careers on this. Entire medical journals are dedicated to new breakthroughs in cancer treatment. One such technique involves regional hyperthermia to treat local neoplasms. The thought is that heating a tumor up to 113 F will kill cancer cells but leave healthy cells relatively intact. This is often combined with radiation and/or chemotherapy. For this article however, we will simply talk about the role of acupuncture in this battle.

So, where does acupuncture fit in? Can acupuncture help in the fight against cancer and other diseases? Before we discuss that, listed below is a (very) brief list of some of our cells that are involved in our immune system: