After having surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation for breast cancer, many patients may have persistent fatigue. Cancer-related fatigue may spring from the stress of emotions, treatments, or the cancer itself. Acupressure may offer some relief from that ongoing fatigue, and that is the subject of a new study at Michigan State University. Gwen Wyatt, a nursing researcher, plans to study the effect of acupressure on 300 breast cancer survivors. Fatigue may linger for these patients at least 5 years after diagnosis, affecting quality of life, sleep, and mood. If left untreated or unresolved, fatigue like this can lead to depression. Fatigue is a very common side effect of cancer, reported by between 70 - 82% of all breast cancer survivors and patients.
"There are few treatment options for persistent cancer-related fatigue, and these costly treatments often require a trained practitioner or have unacceptable side effects," explained Wyatt. "On the other hand, self-administered acupressure is nontoxic, inexpensive and requires minimal instruction. It appears to be a promising treatment for persistent fatigue." Unlike acupuncture, acupressure uses no needles to effect its benefits. Acupressure uses manual pressure, applied by oneself or by a practitioner, using a thumb, finger, or knuckle to a specific point. Acupressure has been used with some success for relief of nausea related to pregnancy and chemotherapy.
Wyatt will be working with Suzanna Zick and Richard Harris from the departments of Anesthesiology and Family Medicine at Michigan State on the study. They will measure the effects of acupressure on fatigue and sleep quality. Participants will be divided into three groups - one will receive relaxation acupressure, a second group will have stimulating acupressure, and the third group will have routine standard care for six weeks. Wyatt has experience in this field, having already studied and published on complementary and alternative medicines for women recovering from breast cancer. Her study is being funded by the National Cancer Institute.
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