We know that the Big C – cancer – is a life-interrupting event. While medical research advances the ways in which cancer can be treated, it remains a daunting diagnosis and usually an arduous treatment regimen. While cancer is definitely one of those situations in which usual medical care is a life-saving or life-prolonging necessity, there remains a question over whether or not chiropractic care can help support the wellbeing and adaptability of the patient during and after their treatment.
So far, we do have a little bit of anecdotal evidence that chiropractic care may be of assistance in the post-cancer recovery phase. While most of this data is in case report form and thus can’t be generalised to the wider population until larger studies are completed, they are encouraging nonetheless.
- One case study examined Heart Rate Variability as a measure of adaptability in cancer survivors and noted improvements concomitant with chiropractic care. 
- A study examining 127 post-breast cancer patients undergoing manual therapy (of which chiropractic is one) found a decrease in chronic pain and an increase in their pressure pain threshold.
- Other case reports have indicated improved resilience, coping and ‘bouncing back’ after chemo.
Another case report has just hit the Asia Pacific Chiropractic Journal in which a 20-year-old female with a five-year history of “chemotherapy-induced neurological deficits” following a year-long treatment for osteosarcoma. This included paraesthesia in her hands and feet, and decreased sensation in her left foot (from femur to foot) and her right foot. She was also diagnosed with depression and anxiety four years prior to her presentation at a chiropractic clinic for care.
As is the usual care for osteosarcoma, she had received intravenous chemotherapy.
A thorough chiropractic examination confirmed the neurological deficits (including pins and needles in her hands at night, which was worse on the left). Multiple indications for subluxation were noted (and can be found in the original case report at the reference below.  Additionally, it was found she had a left lean despite a normal gait, could not perform a tandem gait test, or tandem Rombergs. The chiropractor analysed the patient for subluxations at every visit and adjusted appropriately. These were most commonly at C1, right ilium, T4, C6 and Occiput.
She commenced a nine-week course of care but at the sixth visit, she remarked that her quality of life, balance, coordination and neurological deficits had all improved. While the study is limited in that it only reflects the changes in one patient, and in that she introduced dietary and lifestyle changes at the same time, it is still noteworthy in that it adds to existing anecdotal and case report evidence surrounding cancer recovery.
There is certainly room for more research. After all, cancer remains a daunting and life-interrupting diagnosis. And as such, chiropractors AND traditional medical practitioners need to know the ways in which we can support the person under care while they traverse a challenging life journey.
1. Janke, O, Russell, D (2019). Improvement in Vagal Function in a Post Breast Cancer Patient Receiving Chiropractic Care: A Case Study. Journal of Medical Cases. https://www.journalmc.org/index.php/JMC/article/view/3306/2609
2. da Silva F, Moreire G, Zomkowski K, de Noronha M, Sperandio F (2019), “Manual Therapy as Treatment for Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain in Female Breast Cancer Survivors: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 42. Is. 7, Pp. 503-513, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0161475418302628 retrieved 3 June 2020