East Meets West At Queen’s

By Dr. Jayne Tsuchiyama
Interviewed by Melissa Moniz
Wednesday - February 04, 2009
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Dr. Jayne Tsuchiyama, Dipl. O.M. L.Ac.
Diplomate of Oriental Medicine, Licensed Acupuncturist

Interviewed by Melissa Moniz

Where did you receive your schooling and training?

I went to Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in New York City, the largest school for oriental medicine in the country whose faculty includes some of the top physicians and bioscientists in both Western and Eastern medicine. I did my internship at New York Hospital, and I received my acupuncture certification for cancer care at Memorial Sloan-Kettering in New York. I was also a research acupuncturist at Lutheran Medical Center in Brooklyn, where we studied the “Effects of Acupuncture during Labor and Delivery.”

How long have you been practicing in Hawaii?

I relocated to Hawaii three years ago from New York, where I had a busy private practice on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. I started my private practice in Honolulu in 2006. In December 2008, I launched the acupuncture program at Queen’s Cancer Center.

What is your average work-day or workweek like?

In my private practice, my specialty is women and children’s health. I use the full range of Oriental medicine, including acupuncture and herbal formula-ries. I work with women on a wide range of conditions such as pain management, digestive disorders, musculoskeletal issues, infertility, menopausal symptoms, hyper-tension, stress, depression and facial rejuvenation.


I work with children and their parents to help with common childhood conditions that aren’t responding to conventional care, or when parents want to try Oriental medicine before trying Western treatment. For example, many parents feel their kids are prescribed antibiotics too often for things like ear infections. Kids respond well to acupuncture.

Then, two days a week, I get to work with cancer patients at Queen’s Cancer Center. I’m very excited about this because it’s the first hospital acupuncture program in the state of Hawaii, and it’s in a world-class cancer care center with excellent oncologists, great nurses and cutting-edge technology. I was glad to be able to bring my experience working in a number of hospitals in New York to help Queen’s integrate acupuncture into the hospital environment.

Is acupuncture an optional course of care for cancer patients?

Acupuncture helps to relieve the side effects of cancer treatments. It is not an optional or stand-alone course of care. Integrated medicine, or the synergy of conventional Western medicine with complementary medicine such as acupuncture, brings together the best of both worlds for the patient.

What are the benefits of acupuncture for cancer patients?

Cancer treatments take a huge toll both physically and emotionally. Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation can cause pain, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, dry mouth, hot sweats, digestive issues, headaches, insomnia - and that’s just on the physical side. Emotionally, it’s not just fear of the cancer itself. Patients have to navigate the healthcare system, organize treatment logistics and manage family and work. This can lead to tremendous stress, anxiety and depression, all of which can hinder and prolong the healing process. Both the American Cancer Society and the National Institutes of Health recognize acupuncture as a valuable adjunct to conventional treatments. It helps relieve symptoms and side effects without adding yet another drug, which is great because patients typically are already taking multiple drugs.

Dr. Tsuchiyama at work

When in the treatment process would you recommend that acupuncture be integrated?

Any time is good, because acupuncture has been shown to increase serotonin levels, improve blood counts and strengthen the immune system. But the optimal time is up to 36 hours before or after chemo or radiation. This will produce the biggest benefit in terms of reducing the side effects, and it will help maximize the effects of the chemo or radiation treatments.

Is it common to integrate acupuncture in cancer centers on the Mainland, and is it simply new to Hawaii?

Yes. The top 10 honor roll hospitals reviewed in the 2008 U.S. News and World Report all have integrated medicine departments, incorporating acupuncture and other complementary medicines into conventional patient care - not just in cancer, but in other areas like sports medicine, pediatrics and rehabilitation. In New York, Memorial Sloan Kettering, the world’s oldest and largest cancer center, has long advocated incorporating acupuncture into cancer treatments. There is really no argument about the efficacy of acupuncture: The World Health Organization lists nearly 50 conditions for which it has been found to be effective. I was very surprised when I moved here to learn that the two medicines have been kept so separate. More than 60 percent of the population of Hawaii is Asian, so I just assumed the medicine would have been far more widely embraced than it has been until now. So it’s thrilling that Queen’s is a leader in the state in integrating effective complementary medicine.

Do you think a lot of Hawaii’s reluctance has to do with people just not knowing enough about it?

Surveys have shown that more than 83 million people in this country have tried some form of complementary therapy, yet only half of them admitted it to their doctor because they felt that it would be perceived as negative. So you could say we are taking patients out of the closet! Communication and compliance between patient and their medical team is important, working in the best interest of the patient. But, yes, there is an element of surprise with my new patients. Some of my patients have been surprised when I take their blood pressure, review their medical history and do a comprehensive intake as if they were at their internist. They are surprised at the thoroughness of their first visit.

The same goes for the clean-needle practices we use: I always inform my first-time patients that acupuncture needles are FDA approved, sterile and are used only once before being properly disposed of in a biomedical sharps container. Some respond with relief, reassured that needles are not reused. Clearly there have been misconceptions here about acupuncture. Patients need to understand that practicing acupuncturists are required to be licensed by the state and pass tough national boards.

Are there different types of needles? And are there different sizes, depending on the symptoms or the area?

There are many different types, thicknesses and lengths of needles and several different needling techniques. There are specialized needles for the body, face and ears and there are tools that stimulate the points on the skin without penetrating - in order to deal with those who are particularly needle-phobic! Like any medical professional, a good acupuncturist knows which tool to use and when.

So you should feel the needle going in, but it shouldn’t be painful?

Acupuncture is nothing like the feeling of a hypodermic needle injection or a blood draw. The sources of pain from an injection are the large diameter hollow needle and the fluids being forced into the tissue. An acupuncture needle is very fine and flexible, just a bit thicker than human hair. Several acupuncture needles can fit into one syringe needle of the sort used for flu shots. Most patients either feel nothing or a very slight twinge during the needle insertion. The sensation, if any, is brief and not harmful. All patients are different and have varying levels of sensitivity. And the location of insertion also will make a difference: A point on the back is generally less sensitive than a point on the wrist. Besides, pain is subjective and often psychological - especially with kids, which I help them to overcome through patience and play. Most of my patients look forward to their visits and often fall asleep during their treatments.

Does the area of the body determine how far the needle goes in?

Yes. There are medical standards of insertion depth and angle for every point on which all licensed acupuncturists are trained and tested.

Is acupuncture used more for prevention, healing or rehabilitation?

All of the above. I have extremely healthy patients who eat well, exercise and manage their stress - they come in for a monthly tune-up. Acupuncture keeps them in check, relaxes and supports them - it’s preventative. Then I have my athletes, who will go out and be fierce, pushing their body to the max. For the mind and the aching body - it’s rehabilitating. And for my patients with chronic illness, including those with cancer - it’s supportive and healing.

Acupuncture treats the whole body with virtually no adverse effects.

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