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Breast Cancer and Chiropractic Treatment

Written by Dr. Bill Booker

On October 27, 2021

Breast cancer pink ribbon and handsWe couldn’t let Breast Cancer Awareness Month go by without talking about the benefits of chiropractic treatment for women with breast cancer.

Don’t get us wrong, chiropractic cannot cure breast cancer. We wish it could. However, studies show that chiropractic therapy can help relieve headaches, back and joint pain, and other maladies that are common reactions to treatment of breast cancer. In other words, chiropractic helps improve the quality of life for patients who have to experience cancer treatments and their equally aggressive side effects.

Chiropractic is used to treat musculoskeletal conditions — problems with the muscles, joints, bones, and connective tissue such as cartilage, ligaments, and tendons. These parts of the body experience stress during exercise, movement, and most certainly invasive medical treatments, surgery, and ingestion of drugs or therapies.

So how does chiropractic help patients who have experienced breast cancer or other types of cancer like lung, kidney, prostate, and thyroid, which overwhelmingly metastasize to the skeletal system? Ironically, these types of cancer tumors metastasize BECAUSE the cancer treatments are working, thereby increasing survival but also causing collateral damage.

A study from the Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association reported that 70% of cancer patients had these types of cancer tumors metastasize to the skeletal system. As a result, more and more and more cancer patients are presenting at chiropractic clinics with neuromusculoskeletal symptoms. Chiropractic is still one of the less sought complementary and alternative medicines for people with cancer but it is increasingly being included as a useful tool in multidisciplinary approaches to treating cancer patients.

For instance, patients who undergo conventional breast cancer treatment, and specifically reconstructive surgery post-mastectomies, can experience complications during the healing process. According to one report, some complications include poor wound healing at the site of reconstruction and the tissue donor site, frozen shoulder, and inhibition of neurologic reflexes.

Fortunately, this report offered some optimistic outlooks:

  1. Chiropractic can help relieve “adverse events from treatment such as fatigue, nausea and neuropathy with anecdotal reports revealing that they felt more energy after chiropractic and acupuncture. Acupuncture, frequently offered in chiropractic offices, is also credited for relieving nausea and vomiting.
  2. Chiropractic helps minimize side effects from the use of bevacizumab, known by the brand name Avastin, the chemical commonly used to fight metastatic breast cancer. Avastin can lead to severe high blood pressure (BP) in some breast cancer patients. According to the report, “in May 2007, researchers found that atlas realignment offered marked and sustained reductions in BP similar to the use of two-drug combination therapy.” Equal outcomes with fewer drugs is a net-positive.
  3. Stimulation of spinal structures through adjustments may relax the autonomic nervous system, reducing side effects like nausea, indigestion, hiccups, neuropathy, and fatigue from breast cancer treatments. Chiropractors are encouraged to select adjusting techniques which are safe and effective in cases of neurologic effects from cancer treatment.
  4. Chiropractic can relieve general musculoskeletal discomfort from radiation positioning, simply put — having to lie in a prone position for long periods of time while getting treatment. This has caused some patients to develop pinched nerves or shooting nerve pains that can take months to subside. These side effects are the types of disorders that chiropractors regularly treat even when a patient has not had cancer.

Cancer is an emotionally devastating diagnosis and despite how far we’ve come in being able to treat it and prolong life with medicine, the disease takes a toll on patients, families, and even communities. Patients owe it to themselves to use all sorts of means of relief.

Of course, not everyone wishes to be defined by their cancer diagnosis and this creates a certain sensitivity for some patients seeking complementary therapies.  At Capitol Rehab of Arlington, we like to see our patients experience as much normalcy in their day-to-day lifestyle no matter what the cause of the disruption. We highly encourage our patients to get adjustments regularly to relieve strain from working out, sitting at a desk all day, or aggressive cancer treatments and recovery protocols. And as always, we will throw in some good cheer to put a smile on your face.

You got this. We’re here to help.

P.S. While we’re at it, we should also mention that our functional medicine specialist, Dr. Denia Tapscott, works to address dietary and nutritional needs for patients with chronic health conditions. Feel free to schedule a complimentary introductory call with Dr. Tapscott to discuss how nutrition can help relieve side effects from illnesses and traditional treatments. She is a breast cancer survivor herself and began her professional journey toward functional medicine because of her diagnosis.

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