Acupuncture office offers free treatments for breast cancer patients in October


An Encinitas acupuncture office is giving back to breast cancer patients for the month of October by offering free sessions.

Acupuncture Continuum, located at 317 North El Camino Real, suite 401, regularly offers treatments that can help alleviate pain, stress and other factors that can affect someone's quality of life. During a session, acupuncturists insert thin needles into the body to release energy, or chi, into an area of the body that is being affected by an ailment.

Karen Sulger, an acupuncturist and owner of Acupuncture Continuum, said the treatments are also becoming popular as adjunct methods to western medicine, such as chemotherapy and mastectomies.

Sulger recently discussed how acupuncture can help women with breast cancer and her office's reasoning for offering the treatments free of charge for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

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Karen Sulger

What is your office's history with helping women with breast cancer?

Over the years, we've treated plenty of people that have had breast cancer and other different kinds of cancer. It's very helpful as an adjunct to western medicine. They feel so much better. Their nausea gets better. So many things improve, especially, I would say, their mental and emotional outlook. It's just a really helpful thing. ... There are a few conditions that linger, like post-mastectomy syndrome, which is just kind of like an unexplained pain syndrome after the cancer is gone and all the treatments are done and they just have pain in their chest.

How does the acupuncture help these women?

We work with a couple of different systems. One is the meridian system, which runs lines of points vertically. The biggest meridian with the breast is the stomach meridian. When you put in points that are in the stomach meridian or related to it, you send chi, or energy, through the breast. When you move the chi, you get rid of pain. It brings the immune system and circulation to the area. We don't pin the breast. ... We say that the chi gets stuck, the blood gets stuck and it can form a lump. That's kind of the concept for cancer. We're treating to move the chi and move the blood out of the breast area.

Why should a cancer patient opt for this kind of treatment in conjunction with more traditional medicine, such as chemotherapy or mastectomy?

We help them with everything that goes on as a result of chemotherapy or a mastectomy. As an example, people with chemo and radiation get really exhausted. They also get nausea. Acupuncture is excellent to help with that. It decreases their fatigue. A lot of them get depression and anxiety. It's very good for both of those. It elevates the serotonin. When we move the chi with the needle, that helps to decrease anxiety. A lot of times, people that have breast cancer are really anxious and they can't sleep. They'll fall asleep during their [acupuncture] treatments. It's almost like it lifts the feelings of the problems that they have so they can actually relax.

How long are these sessions?

They vary by patient. Ideally, I do an hour. That's my favorite amount of time to do. Some people have a harder time laying there than others and some would rather lay there longer.

How have the free treatments been going so far?

It's going well. I'd like to see more people, although we are getting some in. We're getting some really interesting patients in that really need the help. It's been pretty rewarding and wonderful to be able to be helpful. ... Most people really enjoy their treatments. I know it sounds funny to have a needle put in and have that be enjoyable, but because it is so relaxing, when people are done, their comment is usually, 'Wow, that was wonderful. Can I spend the night?'