Acupuncture and Cancer Survivorship by Beverley de Valois

 2023 | Review
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Sylvia Gulbenkian
Member: West Sussex
For many acupuncturists, cancer survivors actually make up a large proportion of our patients. In Acupuncture and Cancer Survivorship: Recovery, Renewal and Transformation, Beverley de Valois has brought together all her knowledge, research and experience from over twenty years of working in the field.

This wonderful book looks at not only the short-term but also the possible lifelong physical and emotional consequences of having survived cancer, together with how acupuncturists can support their patients at various stages of such a journey.

With a clear accessible layout, the book is divided into four parts. Part I introduces us to the concept of cancer survivorship, including: the definition of a cancer survivor; the possible physical consequences of cancer treatment (both short- and long-term); the emotional impact a cancer diagnosis and treatment may have on a patient; and the potential role of an acupuncturist in supporting patients at this time.

Practitioners new to the field of treating cancer survivors will appreciate the clear definitions of terminology

In Part II the focus is on acupuncture treatment. The author goes into detail about a few of the more common cancer/cancer treatment-related conditions – fatigue, dry mouth, hot flushes and night sweats, lymphoedema, pain. She explains the western medical view and any possible biomedical treatments for each condition; she summarises and discusses clinical trials carried out into the relevant acupuncture treatment; she then describes her personal approach and includes some very informative case studies or ‘vignettes’.

De Valois also details her approach to more complex conditions, emphasising the importance of patient-centred treatments, rather than condition-centred. She also gives the helpful reminder that often the simplest treatments are the best.

In one chapter entitled ‘Toolkit’, the author generously shares the various ‘tools’ she has acquired over the years – from her integrated TCM and five element training, her research and from her vast experience with treating patients. I have already started to incorporate a couple of these techniques into my own toolkit – my new favourite being the Toasted Pericardium Sandwich! I also really appreciate her acknowledgement that we all acquire our own sets of tools that work for us, and her encouragement to develop these, rather than blindly follow her advice.

Part III covers some of the broader aspects of treating cancer survivors: their reactions when reaching various milestones, ways to improve resilience, and a discussion of recurrence and the development of further primary cancers.

Part IV gives the detailed discussion of a case study of one patient, treated by the author, bringing together and consolidating many of the topics covered throughout the book.

Before reading this book, I associated Beverley de Valois solely with research and was prepared for a slightly dry, prescriptive read. I couldn’t have been further off the mark. True, she offers an amazing amount of information gathered from her, obviously, in-depth study of the subject, as well as her own research and experience. But this work is also full of helpful practical advice, compassion and humility.

The book is written in a way that is very easy to read, from cover to cover. The layout also allows the reader to dip in and out, to remind themselves of something, with chapter summaries, blocks of ‘essentials’, helpful flow charts and tables.

Practitioners new to the field of treating cancer survivors will also appreciate the clear definitions of terminology, so important when communicating with well-informed patients.

Personally, the parts I found, perhaps, most useful and inspiring were the vignettes and case studies. Unlike many books – which just state the history, the points/techniques used and the outcome – here the author shares with us her thought processes throughout the treatment.

She explains how she uses many of her tried and tested ‘tools’, how she adjusts her treatments as the patient progresses, how she listens and learns from the patient, and how she often changes her focus from the ‘symptom to the self’.

I highly recommend this valuable contribution from Beverley de Valois – both to new graduates wishing to increase their knowledge and confidence when treating cancer survivors, and to experienced acupuncturists, who can always use a fresh look and a burst of inspiration!

Acupuncture and Cancer Survivorship: Recovery, Renewal and Transformation is published by Singing Dragon