Acupuncture and other integrative therapies help breast cancer patients and survivors

After surgery in 2014, Beth Wagner, Lovelace Breast Care Center patient, was left with one major reaction. “My lumpectomy was nothing compared to my lymph node surgery, which left me with extreme numbness all over my arm,” Beth shares. “I would get out of the shower crying because I would reach with soap to my underarm and it would feel like it wasn’t even there. It was very disconcerting!” Beth’s certified breast care navigator at Lovelace Women’s Hospital Breast Care Center, Sandra Arellano, knew Beth was struggling and after conferring with Beth’s surgeon suggested the therapy option of acupuncture. “I hadn’t thought of it before but said I was interested,” says Beth. “Thankfully I gave it a try because sure enough, my numbness started to reverse.”

Sandra referred Beth to Dr. Rebeccah Rodriguez, DOM and her Red Bird Community Acupuncture Clinic. “That is a huge part of what I do for my patients,” shares Sandra. “I work closely with their medical providers to ensure appropriate referrals are made and connect patients to other resources, such as our dietitians, counselors and other integrative therapies as appropriate. For Beth, acupuncture was the key to relieving her stress due to the numbness she was experiencing. “I went to see Dr. Rodriguez, and she went over everything with me physically, emotionally, medically, financially, everything,” says Beth. “She told me I didn’t have to live with the numbness, which was really refreshing and comforting to hear and made me feel like she was on my team.”

Dr. Rodriguez’s clinic is set up on a “pay what you can” basis, meaning her patients pay between $15-$35 per session. “Dr. Rodriguez is committed to seeing acupuncture reach anyone who wants it,” shares Beth. “I have been going for over two years and am a poster child for acupuncture. I started going twice a week and now I go once a week and it really allows me to slow down and be in a state of peace I was unable to find on my own. The numbness will never completely go away in my arm, but acupuncture has mitigated a great portion of it so it is definitely worth trying.” Beth also shares how much she admires how Sandra treats the patients she works with. “Sandra really listens to each patient and sees what they are open to trying and what they aren’t. She treats each person really individually and looks at each situation differently.”

Beyond acupuncture, Sandra also works alongside the patient’s multidisciplinary breast cancer team and refers patients to the UNM Center for Life, which is an integrative medicine clinic. “Lovelace Breast Care Center’s partnership with UNM Center for Life is really wonderful,” shares Sandra. “Dr. Arti Prassad, UNM Center for Life’s founding executive director, and staff work with our physicians to make sure treatments are not counteracting with our patients’ cancer treatments, which is extremely important. Dr. Prassad recently spoke to our multidisciplinary breast cancer leadership team providing physician-to-physician education, which aids in increasing communication between providers. The UNM Center For Life also requires a referral from a patient’s provider to ensure providers are kept informed.”

Dr. Prassad will be the keynote speaker for Lovelace Women’s Hospital Breast Care Center’s upcoming Wellness Workshop event. “Dr. Prasad’s expertise in integrative medicine is always intriguing to listen to. It will be great to hear from her perspective on different therapies and treatment options available,” shares Sandra. This event will also feature Cecilia Biglieri, LPC, a licensed professional mental health counselor and breast cancer survivor. There will also be a vendor fair and panel discussion to learn more about the integrative therapies and services available. “The goal of this Wellness Workshop is to  provide education on integrative therapies for patients and the community that may complement their prescribed medical treatment,” says Sandra. “The topics discussed and information presented will be beneficial to current patients and survivors.”

The Wellness Workshop for Breast Cancer Patients and Survivors will take place on Saturday, April 29 in Auditorium A at Lovelace Women’s Hospital from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information and to RSVP, please click here.