Services available for our oncology patients

Symptom control

Not everyone treated for cancer will be affected by symptoms and side effects caused by either the disease or the treatment prescribed. Some people however may experience one or a number.

Symptoms such as pain and fatigue can be both physical and emotional and at Spire Murrayfield Hospital we aim to care for and support the individual with difficult symptoms through supportive care and palliative treatment, emotional and psychological support and the option of in-patient respite care.

Some common symptoms and/or side effects of cancer include:

  • Anaemia
  • Anxiety
  • Bleeding
  • Changes in bowel habit
  • Chest pain or discomfort, including coughing and breathlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pain
  • Sleeplessness
  • Weight loss

Some common side effects of chemotherapy treatment for cancer include:

  • Constipation
  • Dehydration
  • Diarrhoea
  • Fatigue
  • Affected or reduced fertility
  • Hair loss
  • Increased risk of infection
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Painful and ulcerated gums
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sore mouth
  • Swelling in hands and feet

At the Oncology Day Centre at Spire Murrayfield Hospital, Edinburgh, our specialist oncology nurses will work with consultant oncologists and the team at Fairmilehead Marie Curie Hospice to help alleviate symptoms you may experience.

The approach to symptom control and pain management will differ for every patient though may include the use of prescribed pain killers, complementary therapies such as acupuncture and reflexology, and counselling.

Fertility preservation

Unfortunately Spire Edinburgh Hospitals are unable to provide fertility preservation for patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment for cancer. Freezing and storage service for the preservation of sperm and fertilised eggs, called embryos, is available through the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary as well as clinics in the Glasgow area. We will help you source a suitable clinic if needed.   


If you have previously undergone fertility treatment and wish to preserve embryos for future treatment cycles following successful treatment for cancer, surplus good quality embryos may be frozen and stored for use in future IVF/ICSI cycles. Frozen-thawed embryos used in treatment have a lower viability rate than 'fresh' embryos; however the Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) is less invasive.

The standard storage period for embryos is 10 years from the date of freeze, up to a maximum of 55 years.


Sperm can be stored for use in future fertility treatment prior to a patient undergoing treatment for cancer. For more information about the storage of eggs, embryos and sperm, speak to your oncology nurse and they can advise you of suitable clinics.

Clinical psychology and patient support services

The diagnosis and treatment of cancer can be a stressful time for patients and their families. The Clinical Nurse Specialists at Spire Murrayfield Hospital aim to provide emotional support and care for people and their families affected by cancer. 

At the Oncology Day Chemotherapy Centre at Spire Murrayfield Hospital patients have access to our Clinical Nurse Specialist, breast and gynaecological oncology, Katie Morton and Shirley Wood/Emma Boyle our Macmillan Clinical Nurse Specialist, colorectal and urological oncology. 

Clinical Psychologists, Alison Tulloh and Carol Sutherland, are also available to counsel and meet with patients at all stages of their treatment journey.

To find out more about either of these specialist services, ask one of our oncology centre nurses.

Acupuncture during chemotherapy

Acupuncture involves puncturing the skin with very fine needles in order to treat a variety of conditions (AACP, 2008). All physiotherapists carrying out acupuncture in Spire Healthcare hospitals are qualified therapists and are trained to the professional standards set by the Acupuncture Association of Chartered Physiotherapists (AACP).

What can acupuncture help?

Acupuncture is commonly used to help relieve pain. The benefits of acupuncture to help alleviate nausea are also well documented (Ezzo et al, 2010). Specialist physiotherapist-led acupuncture is available to patients at Spire Murrayfield Hospital in Edinburgh to aid the alleviation of nausea, a side effect sometimes associated with chemotherapy.

Does acupuncture work?

Acupuncture doesn’t work for everyone, or for every condition. It has measurable effects on some body systems, but scientists can’t explain them all in detail. Acupuncture is thought to have a biologic effect on nausea and vomiting (Ezzo et al, 2010).

Some people do not respond to acupuncture, and if there is no improvement after three treatments it is unlikely that acupuncture will help. If this treatment is beneficial in the control of your nausea you can have further acupuncture sessions prior to chemotherapy where possible.

Does acupuncture hurt?

Acupuncture is not pain-free. However, the needles are very thin and do not hurt in the same way as an injection. Manual twirling of the needles may be used to enhance the effect of acupuncture.

Although the treatment may not hurt, some acupuncturists try to produce a sensation known in Chinese medicine as ‘de Qi’ which is a heaviness, tingling, warmth or local soreness around the needle (Furlan et al, 2010). This is traditionally believed to indicate that the acupuncture point has been correctly needled.

Preparing for your acupuncture treatment

Before embarking on acupuncture treatment for nausea, it is important that your chemotherapy nurse and physiotherapist fully consult with you to ensure that acupuncture is an appropriate treatment for you. You do not need to make any special preparations before your appointment.


If you are happy to proceed with the acupuncture you will be asked to sign a consent form. This confirms that you have given permission for the treatment to go ahead. You will be informed about the possible side-effects and complications associated with this treatment in order to give your consent.

About your acupuncture treatment

During your acupuncture session one to two needles are used for the treatment of nausea. They are placed a few millimetres into the skin over the wrist area. They are usually left in for 10 to 30 minutes. Your physiotherapist will ensure that you are in a relaxed position during your treatment.

What are the risks of acupuncture?

Acupuncture is generally safe when performed by a properly qualified practitioner. However, all invasive treatment carries an element of risk. This can be divided into the risk of side-effects and the risk of complications.

Side-effects of acupuncture

These are the unwanted but mostly mild and temporary effects of successful treatment. Very occasional side-effects include, bleeding, bruising and dizziness. Less common side effects include an initial and temporary increase in pain (Ernst et al, 2003, AACP, 2008).

Complications of acupuncture

As with any cut or graze on the skin it is possible for a skin infection to occur at an acupuncture needle site. This may need to be treated with antibiotics. To minimise the risk of infection, acupuncturists at Spire Healthcare hospitals follow strict hygiene guidelines and use sterile, disposable needles. If you are troubled by swelling or lymphodema in your arm, the needles will not be placed on the affected side of your body.

Blood-borne diseases

Properly qualified practitioners, such as those in Spire Healthcare hospitals, use only sterile, disposable acupuncture needles and sterile techniques. This means that your needles will not have been used to treat anyone else. Therefore the risk of transmitting blood-borne infections, such as HIV or hepatitis, is reduced (Beltrami et al, 2000).

Further information
British Medical Acupuncture Society
01606 786 782

Acupuncture Association of Chartered Physiotherapists
01747 861 151

Acupuncture Association of Chartered Physiotherapists (AACP) (2008):

Beltrami, E et al (2000) Risk and management of blood-borne infections in Health Care Workers. Clinical Microbiology Reviews, July pp. 385-407

Ernst, G  et al (2003) Incidence of adverse effects during acupuncture therapy - a multicentre survey. Complimentary Therapies in Medicine, vol 11 (2) June pp. 93-97

Ezzo J et al (2010) Acupuncture-point stimulation for chemotherapy-induced
nausea or vomiting (Review) The Cochrane Library, issue 11.

Furlan AD  et al (2010) Acupuncture and dry-needling for low back pain (Review)
The Cochrane Library, issue 9

Reflexology during chemotherapy

What is reflexology?

Reflexology is a holistic, non-invasive therapy based on the principle that all organs, body systems and glands can be mapped on the soles of the feet.

Using gentle pressure applied to specific points on the foot and ankle, reflexology aims to promote relaxation, stress relief and healing.

Your reflexologist will massage and manipulate ‘zones’ on your feet with the aim to balance the body’s corresponding areas to promote the relief of fatigue, tension and insomnia, as well as strengthen the immune and lymphatic systems.

Reflexology is suitable for all age groups and is compatible with most other forms of medicine.

What to expect in a reflexology session

The length of your session will be decided by your oncology nurse and physiotherapist and will take place in the ODCC. You will be asked to remove your footwear.

A reflexologist will not:

  • diagnose
  • prescribe medicines or alter or end prescribed medicines or treatments that you are currently receiving
  • treat specific health disorders

Promoting wellbeing during chemotherapy

There’s a lot you can do to promote a feeling of wellbeing during your treatment, including:

  • Enjoy a well balanced diet. Some people prefer to eat small amounts often, while others prefer larger, more regularly-spaced meals to aid digestion. Certain treatments may carry dietary restrictions, but your nurse will inform you about these from the outset.
  • Try to increase your fluid intake, particularly around the time you receive chemotherapy.
  • You may feel fatigued during treatment, so it’s important that you listen to the signs your body gives you when it needs to rest. Try to reduce your level of activity for a few days around treatment time until you are used to how you feel during treatment. If you feel well enough you may continue to drive to work.
  • Allow family and friends to offer their support – sharing the strain of everyday domestic and personal life may help to make things easier on you. 

For more information about promoting wellbeing during chemotherapy, speak to one of our specialist nurses in the Oncology Day Chemotherapy Centre at Spire Murrayfield Hospital Edinburgh.

A quality-approved environment for patients

We are proud that our centre has been recognised by Macmillan Cancer Support with a Mark of Quality Environment (MQEM) for achievements in quality for cancer care environments. Click here to find out more about this award and how it benefits our patients.

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Our healthcare standards

Our Oncology Day Chemotherapy Centre aims to provide patients with a clean, comfortable and private environment in which to receive treatment, should it be required.

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