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    Acupuncture (PDQ®): Complementary and alternative medicine - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Human / Clinical Studies

    Table 4. Clinical Studies of Acupuncture: Vasomotor Symptomsa continued...


    In a randomized controlled trial, 47 cancer patients with moderate to severe fatigue were randomly assigned to one of three groups. One group received six 20-minute sessions of acupuncture (n = 15); one group was instructed to use acupressure (n = 16); and the third group, the sham acupressure group (n = 16), was taught to apply pressure in three points unrelated to true acupressure. All three groups continued with the same techniques for 2 weeks. The study concluded that acupuncture was a more effective method than acupressure or sham acupressure.[54]

    In a follow-up study, 302 breast cancer patients were randomly assigned to a 6-week course of either daily acupuncture or usual care enhanced by educational booklets on managing fatigue. Acupuncture significantly reduced fatigue and improved quality of life over that of the "enhanced usual care" group.[55]


    A number of clinical studies have investigated the effect of acupuncture for the treatment and prevention of xerostomia in nasopharyngeal carcinoma and head and neck cancer patients.

    Acupuncture was associated with a decrease in the onset of symptoms and an increased saliva flow in two randomized studies that compared acupuncture with standard care for preventing xerostomia in patients undergoing radiation therapy.[56,57]

    Compared with standard care, acupuncture significantly improved xerostomia symptoms in patients who experienced the condition following radiation therapy.[58,59]

    Two phase III randomized controlled studies, one for prevention, and one for treatment of radiation-induced xerostomia revealed increases in salivary flow rates following real and sham (superficial needling 1 or 2 cm away from acupuncture points) acupuncture, although differences between groups were not significant.[60,61] It also reported improvements in quality of life after acupuncture treatment, but there were no significant differences between the groups.[61]

    One study examined long-term effects of acupuncture on xerostomia.[62] Patients who received real acupuncture were followed for 6 months and up to 3 years. Compared with baseline, significant differences in salivary flow rates were seen in patients 6 months after acupuncture treatment. At 3 years, patients who received additional acupuncture exhibited greater saliva flow rates than patients who did not continue acupuncture treatment.

    There is one ongoing phase III clinical trial evaluating the effect of acupuncture for treatment (NCT01141231) of xerostomia in head and neck cancer patients. Information about ongoing clinical trials is available from the NCI Web site.

    The findings from these studies are summarized in Table 5 below.

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