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

Table 6. Clinical Studies of Acupuncture: For Other Cancer-related Symptoms or Cancer Treatment–related Side Effectsa

Reference Citation(s)Type of StudyCondition TreatedNo. of Patients: Enrolled; Treated; ControlbStrongest Benefit ReportedcConcurrent Therapy (Yes/No/ Unknown)dLevel of Evidence Scoree
No. = number; RCT = randomized controlled trial.
a Refer to text and theNCI Dictionary of Cancer Termsfor 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, refer to Levels of Evidence for Human Studies of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
fP< .001, versus baseline.
[1]RCTSymptoms of weight loss, cough, thoracodynia, hemoptysis, fever, and side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy76; 38 acupuncture; 38 no acupunctureWeight gain, symptom relief, fewer side effectsfNo1iiC
[54]RCTCancer-related fatigue47; 31; 16Improved fatigue levelsNo1iiC
[44]Nonconsecutive case series, surveyed retrospectivelyUnspecified symptoms (including pain, xerostomia, hot flashes, nausea/loss of appetite) from cancer or cancer treatment79; 79 traditional Chinese acupuncture, auricular acupuncture, percutaneous nerve stimulation, Korean hand acupuncture, or Japanese scalp acupuncture; none60% showed at least 30% improvementYes (standard medical therapies)3iiiC
[71]Nonconsecutive case seriesRadiation proctitis in women treated for cervical cancer44; 44 acupuncture; none73% radiation proctitis cured: no blood or mucus for 15 daysNo3iiiC
[74]Nonconsecutive case seriesPostoperative lower extremity lymphedema in women treated for gynecologic tumors24; 24 acupuncture and moxibustion; noneEdema prevented or markedly reducedUnknown3iiiC
[76]Nonconsecutive case seriesSymptoms related to lymphedema (including pain, discomfort, anxiety and insomnia)35; 30 acupuncture and moxibustion; noneSymptoms improvedUnknown3iiiC
[72]Case reportDysphonia after radiation therapy1; 1 acupuncture; noneVoice recoveredUnknownNot applicable
[73]Case reportEsophageal obstruction in patients with esophageal cancer2; 2 acupuncture; noneObstruction relieved and normal bowel movements restoredYes (not specified)Not applicable
[75]Retrospective case seriesHiccups16; 16 acupuncture; noneSymptom reliefUnknown3iiiC

In a randomized clinical trial,[1] 76 patients with various types of cancer, including 38 with esophageal cancer, 24 with gastric cancer, and 14 with lung cancer, were randomly assigned to two groups (n = 38 per group). The treatment group received acupuncture in combination with radiation therapy or chemotherapy, and the control group was treated with radiation therapy or chemotherapy alone. The data showed that the patients in the acupuncture group gained significantly more body weight than patients in the control group (P < .001). The acupuncture group also showed greater improvement than the controls in the symptoms of cough, thoracodynia, hemoptysis, and fever for patients with lung cancer and the symptoms of chest pain, mucus vomiting, and difficulty in swallowing for patients with esophageal cancer. In addition, the acupuncture group suffered fewer side effects (poor appetite, N/V, dizziness, or fatigue) from radiation therapy or chemotherapy than the control group. However, no statistical analysis was performed on these data. A RCT of 138 patients treated with acupuncture plus massage versus usual care showed decreased pain (P = .05) and a decrease in depressive mood (P = .003) in postoperative cancer patients.[20]


WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: February 25, 2014
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