Acupuncture has roots in traditional Chinese medicine and is founded on the belief that energy flows through your body along pathways called ‘meridians’. When that flow is blocked or obstructed, your health and wellbeing are affected. In acupuncture, fine, sterile needles are inserted into your skin to unblock these obstructed pathways and restore energy flow, bringing your mind and body back into balance.
For many years, acupuncture has been used and accepted as an effective part of symptom control for people with cancer. Acupuncture has been shown to improve the dry mouth sensation (xerostomia) that can be caused by radio therapy and it can also help with neuropathy, the pain and numbness of the limbs that can be caused by nerve damage during treatment.
Clinical research indicates that stimulating acupuncture points on the body with needles and other forms of acupressure causes nerve cells and parts of the brain to respond physically which may in turn improve pain, fatigue, and other symptoms.
Acupuncture has been shown to:
- Reduce the intensity and frequency of nausea and vomiting in some cancer patients receiving chemotherapy.
- Help with dry mouth from radiotherapy, helping you to swallow, eat and drink.
- Decrease the frequency and intensity of hot flashes for breast cancer patients.
- If you’re going too often or not often enough, acupuncture and massage may help regulate bowel changes.
Meet the team
Acupuncturist and Researcher
Bachelor of Health Science in Traditional Chinese Medicine, Doctor of Philosophy (Science)
BHlthSc (TCM), PhD (Science)
Member: AACMA, AHPRA, SAR, SIO, Sydney Catalyst
Victoria is an acupuncturist and research fellow at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse. She completed her PhD in Science at the University of Technology Sydney, investigating the mechanistic effects of acupuncture, and has multiple publications in peer-reviewed journals. She is currently an academic at the University of Technology Sydney.
Since joining Chris O’Brien Lifehouse in 2017, her clinical work has been in the area of integrative oncology in the LivingRoom. She treats patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy, using acupuncture to help manage the symptoms and side effects of cancer treatment.
Through Victoria’s clinical and research interest in Chemotherapy Induced Peripheral Neuropathy (CIPN), she hopes to understand the underlying pathomechanism of CIPN and develop an acupuncture treatment protocol to treat it and improve the quality of life of cancer patients.
In her spare time, Victoria is a keen reader and an urban gardening enthusiast.
Senior Acupuncturist and Senior Research Fellow
BAppSc and doctoral (PhD) Western Sydney University
Member: AHPRA, Clinical Oncology Society of Australia (Integrative Oncology Group), SIO & an Advisor to the WHO South East Asian Regional Traditional Medicine Group
Suzanne has been an acupuncturist at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse since the doors opened in 2013. Suzanne has been in practice for almost 20 years and has earned both her undergraduate (BAppSc) and doctoral (PhD) degrees from the Western Sydney University (WSU), with study and work in Nanjing and Beijing, China. She is a Senior Research Fellow and lectures at WSU, with research published in peer-reviewed journals in Chinese medicine and cancer.
“When I was studying in China, I saw firsthand how powerful acupuncture can be as part of a treatment regimen. Acupuncture works to treat the “whole” person. We are treating not only symptoms and side effects of cancer treatment but looking at everything else that is going on – mind and body, helping patients feel as well as possible. We recommend you start acupuncture as soon as possible, even if you are not currently experiencing symptoms. Acupuncture treatment effects are cumulative and you will benefit most from consistent treatment. I find it incredibly rewarding to work closely with patients who are going through a challenging time and assisting in their recovery.”
When Suzanne is not working or reading, she is somewhere near the ocean, swimming, sailing or surf lifesaving or hiking in the bush. Suzanne’s family, yoga and nature are what sustain and inspire her.
Acupuncturist and Researcher
Bachelor Health Science in Traditional Chinese Medicine (UTS)
PhD in Candidature. (WSU)
Member: AACMA, APRAH & SIO
Emma has been working at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse in the Living Room since 2019 after 13 years in private practice. Emma’s background in cancer care includes delivering an integrative medicine lecture series to cancer care nurses and medical staff, which eventually led her to pursue further studies and doctoral research in cancer care at Western Sydney University.
In 2020, Emma was awarded the National Institute of Complimentary Medicine (NICM) Health Research Institute (HRI) & Blackmores Institute, PhD Scholarship in Integrative Medicine, for her research in using electro acupuncture to improve functional outcomes and quality of life for prostate cancer patients after radical prostatectomy.
“I love working at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse because it’s a very special place. I’m inspired by our patients and grateful to work in such an amazing multidisciplinary team”.
When not in clinic or researching, Emma enjoys time with her family and friends. She’s also a keen road cyclist, mountain biker and runner.
Suzanne, Victoria and Emma are available to treat not only Chris O’Brien Lifehouse patients, their family and carers but anyone from the general public, particularly with a cancer diagnosis.
At your first appointment, your LivingRoom acupuncturist will look at your medical history from a Western medical point of view. Then your practitioner will consider your health from a traditional Chinese medicine perspective which may include looking at your tongue as a diagnostic tool. These investigations help your practitioner to work out what sort of treatment will suit you best.
Your acupuncturist will insert hair-thin needles into sites around your body. Most treatments involve between four and twelve needles, positioned at sites in your arms and legs. Sometimes treatments require needles on the scalp, in the abdomen or in the ear. As the needles are inserted you may feel a very slight pinprick or tingle followed by a warm, glowing sensation or a dull ache at the site. As the sensation fades it may be replaced by a comfortable feeling of heaviness in the body part. Often people become deeply relaxed, and some fall asleep.
In most cases the needles will stay in place for around 20 minutes. Sometimes needles are attached to an electroacupuncture machine that intensifies the treatment and may produce a tapping sensation through the needles. In some cases a laser machine may be used. A heat lamp may be used on the area being treated to enhance the experience. Your acupuncturist might advise an acupressure (or massage therapy using pressure points) routine to do at home.
Are there any risks?
Acupuncture is generally very safe. Some people experience some discomfort, and some have mild bruising at the site of the needle, but serious side effects are rare and have been reported in less than one in 10,000 treatments. Only sterile, single-use, disposable needles are used. Your acupuncturist is registered with the Australian Health Professional Regulation Agency.
Strong evidence from clinical studies suggests that acupuncture can relieve many of the symptoms and side effects of cancer treatment and prevent them from worsening. It has been show to:
- Relieve anxiety
- Reduce pain experienced by cancer patients
- Relieve joint pain and stiffness in breast cancer patients receiving hormone therapy (aromatase inhibitors)
- Relieve nausea and vomiting caused by cancer treatment – in several studies patients required less nausea and pain medications
- Strengthen the immune system during treatment
- Relieve hot flashes in patients receiving hormone therapy for breast and prostate cancer
- Help manage cancer-related fatigue
- Help with neuropathy, lymphoedema and irregular bowel changes
- Prevent dry mouth in patients undergoing radiotherapy – clinical trials show that acupuncture is better than standard care in managing this side effect. Patients treated with acupuncture had fewer symptoms, increased saliva flow and had better outcomes after six months and three years than those in the conventional treatment group.
Our researchers are continuing to uncover evidence for acupuncture as an effective, supportive therapy for cancer patients. Important areas of focus include management of stress, insomnia and lymphoedema.
To make an appointment and to find out the full range of our fees, please call 0285140038 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are here to help you so if you are having financial hardship please contact us. Our main priority is to care and support you, that is what we do.
Patients with private health insurance, depending on level of cover, may be eligible to claim and rebate.
We look forward to hearing from you.