Acupuncture (not available yet)

Here at the Ballinasloe Cancer Support Centre we offer facilities for Acupuncture, free of charge for people affected by cancer. All services are carried out by professionals who volunteer their time and efforts in support of our cause.

Acupuncture sessions are currently available every Wednesday. If you would like to book an appointment, please contact us, 090 9645574 or email us on


Acupuncture is used to treat pain and some other symptoms of cancer and the side effects of treatment.

Acupuncture is a treatment that involves putting fine needles into the body at particular points. The needles are left in place for a short time and then removed. Acupuncture can help with some physical problems such as pain and feeling sick. It can also help to reduce symptoms such as anxiety.

Acupuncture first started in traditional East Asian medicine systems. It became an important part of Chinese medicine about 2000 years ago. But we now know how it works in scientific terms as well.

Western medical acupuncture is a modern interpretation of acupuncture based on scientific research. Treatments are given following a medical diagnosis. They can be used alongside conventional cancer treatments such as cancer drugs or radiotherapy.

Acupuncture is used to treat a wide range of pain conditions and some other symptoms. Many doctors train in Western medical acupuncture. Other qualified health professionals also often train to use acupuncture alongside anticancer treatments.

How it works

Ancient theories of Chinese medicine suggest that a vital force or energy called Qi flows through the body along channels called meridians. Acupuncture alters this flow to restore or optimise good health.

Medical research shows that acupuncture works by stimulating nerves. This releases substances that can reduce cancer symptoms.

It releases some of our own natural morphine like substances (endorphins) in the spinal cord and brain which relieves pain. Serotonin is also released by acupuncture. Serotonin is a pain reliever which can promote a feeling of wellbeing.

Why people with cancer use it

One of the main reasons people with cancer have acupuncture is to relieve sickness caused by chemotherapy or other cancer drugs.

Acupuncture is available in most hospitals, hospices and clinics. People are often referred because they have pain or other symptoms such as:

  • tiredness and weakness (fatigue)

  • a dry mouth

  • breathlessness

  • hot flushes due to anti cancer treatments

Some people also say that acupuncture helps them feel relaxed and improves their feeling of wellbeing.

What it involves

On your first visit, your practitioner will ask you general questions about your health and lifestyle. This can include how you're sleeping, eating, and feeling both physically and emotionally.

Tell your practitioner about any health problems you have and any medicines you take. Tell them about the cancer symptoms or treatment side effects you have. They might need to change the treatment to suit your specific needs.

Discuss how many treatments you will need before you start having it because it will vary.

Your practitioner might recommend that you have treatments once or twice a week at first.

You might need to go back every few weeks for a top up treatment if you have a chronic condition. You are likely to see an improvement in about 3 to 6 sessions if acupuncture is going to help you.

Having the treatment

The practitioner puts fine, stainless steel, disposable needles in through your skin.

Treatment usually starts with only a few needles. This might change depending on your response and the symptoms that you have.

The needles shouldn’t cause pain but you might feel a tingling sensation. They are left in place for between 10 to 30 minutes.

The practitioner might gently flick or turn the needles to stimulate your nerves. Or, they might attach a very weak electrical current to the needles once they are in. This is called electro acupuncture.

In some situations, the practitioner will leave a special type of very small needle in the skin to give ongoing symptom relief.

For ear (auricular) acupuncture, the practitioner will put needles or small beads (acupressure beads) onto the outer part of the ear. They might leave them in place for a few days.

Sometimes people are taught a specific type of acupuncture technique to use themselves at home.

Possible side effects

Acupuncture is generally safe and gives very few side effects if it is done by a professional and qualified practitioner. The most common side effect is minor bleeding and bruising which occurs in up to 3 in 100 people (3%).

Some people have a temporary short term increase in pain symptoms but this is followed by a decrease in pain.

Sometimes people feel dizzy or faint. Fainting occurs in about 1 in 100 treatments (1%). This does not happen often if you lie down to have the treatment.

Acupuncture can have a serious side effect such as a punctured lung or serious infection. But this is very rare and happens in fewer than 1 in 200,000 treatments.

Research into acupuncture for cancer

There is no evidence to show that acupuncture can help treat or cure cancer. But, research suggests that it can help relieve some cancer symptoms and cancer treatment side effects.

Research into acupuncture for cancer focuses on treating chemotherapy related sickness, tiredness and pain.

Most studies show that acupuncture is better than no treatment at all. And that it is as good as, or better than, standard treatment for these symptoms and side effects.

But, because studies in people with cancer are often small, it is difficult to be completely sure of the results.

Before having acupuncture

Always check with your doctor before you start using any type of complementary or alternative treatment. Always make sure your acupuncture practitioner knows your full medical and drug history at every visit, especially if anything has changed.

*All information about Cancer Treatments is provided by Cancer Research UK