Breast Cancer and Chiropractic
SOURCE: ACANews ~ October 2015
By Jeffrey Sklar, DC
Regional Director of Chiropractic for the
Cancer Treatment Centers of America
Well known celebrities discussing their personal challenges with breast cancer has led to frequent media coverage. Primarily, the focus is on the oncological decisions regarding treatment: whether to have radical surgery along with chemo and radiation, just radiation or take a holistic approach. However, there isn’t much attention drawn to Quality of Life (QoL) factors that parallel the breast cancer patient experience.
In other words, treatment decisions and outcomes often seem to shadow the collateral damage experienced by patients who undergo conventional breast cancer treatment. Many premenopausal women face the inevitable decision to take the drug tamoxifen to help prevent recurrence of the disease at the risk of having menopausal-like symptoms. Also, reconstructive post-mastectomies can lead to complications during the healing process and beyond. These complications may include poor wound healing at the site of reconstruction, as well as the tissue donor site. Frozen shoulder is a common occurrence for post-mastectomy, breast reconstruction patients. Many breast cancer patients are forced to look outside their core oncology team to find services that will help with QoL.
It was reported in the Journal of Clinical Oncology that among 453 cancer patients surveyed, 83.3 percent had used at least one complementary alternative medicine (CAM) therapy concurrent with conventional treatment. Another discovery was that 24.7 percent of participants used seven or more CAM therapies. 
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With early detection, survival outcomes are increased. This is partly because of innovative technological advances, such as intraoperative radiation therapy with the Novac 7, which allows qualified patients the opportunity to have a single dose of radiation to the tumor bed instead of six weeks of external radiation; and NanoKnife, which targets tumors in difficult-to-reach spaces while sparing healthy tissue. However, post-treatment pain and diminished QoL plague the overmedicated, under-treated patient population. This is discussed in an article, Adverse Effects of Breast Cancer Treatment,  about “adverse effects of breast cancer treatments and how they affect the health and quality of life of those receiving treatment.”
Call for Integration
Pain management is a necessary part of any breast cancer treatment plan, and it can be argued that pain medication, specifically opioids, has not produced the desired outcome. A 2012 study reported that pain is as prevalent with ambulatory solid tumor oncology patients today as it was 20 years ago, despite a more than tenfold increase in opioid prescriptions. Conclusions drawn from this information include a call for integration of non-oncology resources into oncology settings.  Note that when treatment plans formulated for breast cancer patients include aggressive therapies that could affect the patient’s fertility, serious discussions are required. It is this type of comprehensive care and compassion that create a benchmark for integrative whole-person cancer care.