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.
Other Treatment-related Side Effects
Many studies have reported on the effects of acupuncture on cancer or other cancer treatment-related symptoms, including weight loss, cough, hemoptysis, fever, anxiety,depression, xerostomia,proctitis, dysphonia, esophagealobstruction, hiccups, and postoperative lymphedema.[1,9,42,53,54,55,56,57,58] Four studies were from China,[1,54,55,56] one from Japan, and three from the United States.[9,18,53] Most were case studies or case series,[9,54,55,56,58] one was a retrospective survey study, one was a phase I pilot study, and one was a RCT. The findings from these studies are summarized in Table 5 below.
Table 5. Clinical Studies of Acupuncture: For Other Cancer-related Symptoms or Cancer Treatment-related Side Effectsa
No. = number; RCT = randomized controlled trial.
a See text and the NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms for additional information and definition of terms.
b Number of patients treated plus number of patient controls may not equal number of patients enrolled; number of patients enrolled equals number of patients initially considered by the researcher who conducted a study; number of patients treated equals number of enrolled patients who were given the treatment being studied AND for whom results were reported.
c Strongest evidence reported that the treatment under study has anticancer activity or otherwise improves the well-being of cancer patients.
d Concurrent therapy for symptoms treated (not cancer).
e For information about levels of evidence analysis and an explanation of the level of evidence scores, see Levels of Evidence for Human Studies of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
fP < .001, versus baseline.
|Reference Citation(s) ||Type of Study ||Condition Treated ||No. of Patients: Enrolled; Treated; Controlb ||Strongest Benefit Reportedc ||Concurrent Therapy (Yes/No/ Unknown)d||Level of Evidence Scoree|
|||RCT||Symptoms of weight loss, cough, thoracodynia, hemoptysis, fever, and side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy ||76; 38 acupuncture; 38 no acupuncture ||Weight gain, symptom relief, fewer side effectsf ||No||1iiC |
|||RCT||Cancer-related fatigue ||47; 31; 16 ||Improved fatigue levels ||No||1iiC|
|||Nonconsecutive case series, surveyed retrospectively ||Unspecified symptoms (including pain, xerostomia, hot flashes, nausea/loss of appetite) from cancer or cancer treatment ||79; 79 traditional Chinese acupuncture, auricular acupuncture, percutaneous nerve stimulation, Korean hand acupuncture, or Japanese scalp acupuncture; none ||60% showed at least 30% improvement ||Yes (standard medical therapies)||3iiiC |
|||Nonconsecutive case series ||Radiation proctitis in women treated for cervical cancer||44; 44 acupuncture; none ||73% radiation proctitis cured: no blood or mucus for 15 days ||No||3iiiC |
|||Nonconsecutive case series ||Postoperative lower extremity lymphedema in women treated for gynecologic tumors ||24; 24 acupuncture and moxibustion; none ||Edema prevented or markedly reduced ||Unknown ||3iiiC |
|||Nonconsecutive case series ||Xerostomia after radiation therapy in patients with cancer ||13; 13 acupuncture; none ||Symptoms improved ||Yes (not specified) ||3iiiC |
|||Nonconsecutive case series ||Xerostomia ||14; 8 acupuncture; none ||Symptoms improved ||No ||3iiiC|
|||Case report ||Dysphonia after radiation therapy ||1; 1 acupuncture; none ||Voice recovered ||Unknown ||Not applicable |
|||Case report ||Esophageal obstruction in patients with esophageal cancer ||2; 2 acupuncture; none ||Obstruction relieved and normal bowel movements restored ||Yes (not specified) ||Not applicable |
|||Retrospective case series ||Hiccups ||16; 16 acupuncture; none ||Symptom relief ||Unknown ||3iiiC|