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Cancer Treatment

Little Hover Commission 2004

Regulation of Acupuncture: A Complementary Therapy Framework

One important example of where policy-makers have distinguished between modalities of treatment and appropriate conditions to be treated is cancer. However, during advisory committee meetings it was brought to the Commission's attention that there was some confusion among practitioners and the Acupuncture Board about the appropriateness of cancer patients receiving acupuncture.

State law limits the specific treatment modalities that can be used to treat cancer and does not authorize acupuncture. However, the attorney for the Acupuncture Board and Department of Consumer Affairs reviewed the issue at the request of the Commission. In his opinion, he concluded that while acupuncturists are not authorized to treat patients for cancer, they can treat patients for the side-effects of cancer treatment. The opinion stated:

An acupuncturist is not permitted to diagnose, treat, alleviate or cure cancer. However, we believe that the use of acupuncture and Asian medicine treatments by acupuncturists for patients diagnosed with cancer is permitted if it is intended to relieve the side effects of or protect the body from the damaging effects of the therapies used to treat cancer and if it does not counteract the efficacy of or otherwise interfere with the treatments prescribed for the patient by a physician or other person licensed to treat or alleviate cancer as specified in Health and Safety Code 109290.42

A Kaiser acupuncturist explained that while acupuncture would not be expected to heal cancer, it may be an appropriate complementary therapy pursued simultaneously with Western therapy. The general confusion of the advisory committee on the topic indicates that clarification is needed among practicing acupuncturists and may be suitable material to include on examinations. It also raises the possibility that ill patients may not be receiving consistent information at a vulnerable point in their lives.



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