Fatigue (feeling tired) affects most people during cancer treatment. Cancer fatigue results from the side effects of the cancer treatment rather than the cancer itself. Acupressure involves applying pressure using fingers, thumbs or certain devices to specific points in the body.
‘Acupressure, derived from Chinese traditional medicine, provides respite to breast cancer survivors from fatigue. It helps manage other symptoms, improves sleep and quality of life.’
Breast cancer survivors experience moderate to severe fatigue as one of the most common side- effects, for up to ten years after the treatment.
In the study conducted, researchers used two types of acupressure techniques, the relaxing acupressure that targets insomnia and the stimulating acupressure that is used to increase energy. A total of 424 breast cancer survivors were recruited from Michigan Tumor Registry. Women were randomly assigned with either of the two acupressure techniques. They were taught how to find the right points and stimulate them once a day by applying pressure in circular motion for 3 minutes each.
The findings that were published in the journal JAMA Oncology
revealed that acupressure reduced levels of fatigue by 27 per cent to 34 per cent over six weeks. After six weeks, 66.2% of women doing relaxing acupressure reported normal fatigue levels and 60.9% doing stimulating acupressure achieved normal fatigue levels. This was in comparison to 30.1% of those having normal care. Around 12% more dropped out saying it was too time consuming.
After four weeks both acupressure groups reported improvements in levels of fatigue, but only relaxing acupressure significantly improved women's quality of life compared with normal care at both 6 weeks and 10 weeks. At week ten, 56.3% in the relaxing acupressure group, 60.9% in the stimulating acupressure group, and 30.1% having normal care continued to experience normal fatigue.
"Fatigue is an under-appreciated symptom across a lot of chronic diseases, especially cancer. It has a significant impact on quality of life," said Suzanna Zick, Associate Research Professor at University of Michigan." Acupressure is easy to learn and patients can do it themselves. Given the brief training required to learn acupressure, this intervention could be a low-cost option for treating fatigue," she added.
The team is now working on developing a mobile application that can educate people on acupressure and are looking at other acupressure techniques that would benefit people after treatment from other types of cancers.