Acupuncture and Oncology

It is somewhat widely acknowledged that acupuncture treatment can improve the quality of life in people living with cancer.  There are many studies showing the effectiveness of acupuncture as integrative palliative care for symptoms from both cancer itself and side effects from chemotherapy and radiation treatment.  Below are some recent studies showing the effectiveness of acupuncture for people living with cancer.

Lau, C. H. Y., Wu, X., Chung, V. C. H., Liu, X., Hui, E. P., Cramer, H., … Wu, J. C. Y. (2016). Acupuncture and Related Therapies for Symptom Management in Palliative Cancer Care: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Medicine95(9), e2901.

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This study is a systematic review and meta-analysis published in the US in 2016.  The study reviewed and analyzed 13 RCTs and concluded that acupuncture and related therapies (such as acupressure with essential oils) were effective in reducing pain and fatigue and in improving overall quality of life for cancer patients.  They further concluded, based on the available evidence, that these therapies were most effective when used together with conventional care. 

Romeo, M. J., Parton, B., Russo, R. A., Hays, L. S., & Conboy, L. (2015). Acupuncture to Treat the Symptoms of Patients in a Palliative Care Setting. Explore (New York, N.Y.)11(5), 357–362.

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This study is a nonrandomized controlled clinical trial which followed the results of 26 patients who elected to receive acupuncture for palliative care in a hospice setting.  It was done in the US in 2015.  The findings were that, on a Quality of Life (QOL) scale, 7 of 9 symptoms improved with acupuncture care. These findings are relevant because they indicate that acupuncture can be effective at improving QOL among patients seeking palliative care. 

Wu, X., Chung, V. C. H., Hui, E. P., Ziea, E. T. C., Ng, B. F. L., Ho, R. S. T., … Wu, J. C. Y. (2015). Effectiveness of acupuncture and related therapies for palliative care of cancer: overview of systematic reviews. Scientific Reports5, 16776.

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This study is an overview of systematic reviews carried out in Hong Kong and published in 2015.  Its conclusions were mixed.  Acupuncture and related therapies were found effective in reducing cancer-related fatigue and chemotherapy-induced nausea.  The evidence was mixed for the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating pain, hot flashes, hiccups, and improving QOL.  There was inconclusive evidence that acupuncture was effective in managing xerostomia, dyspnea, lymphodema, and improving psychological well-being.

Zhang, Y., Lin, L., Li, H., Hu, Y., & Tian, L. (2018). Effects of acupuncture on cancer-related fatigue: a meta-analysis. Supportive Care in Cancer: Official Journal of the Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer26(2), 415–425.

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This study is a meta-analysis completed in China and published in 2018.  It concluded that acupuncture was beneficial for treating cancer-related fatigue (CRF), particularly in patients with breast cancer and those currently receiving cancer treatment. 

Zia, F. Z., Olaku, O., Bao, T., Berger, A., Deng, G., Fan, A. Y., … Mao, J. J. (2017). The National Cancer Institute’s Conference on Acupuncture for Symptom Management in Oncology: State of the Science, Evidence, and Research Gaps. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Monographs2017(52).

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This study is a report from the findings presented at the National Cancer Center Institute’s conference in the US in 2017.  The results found that overall, there was promising evidence for the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating symptoms related to cancer-care, particularly where standard care offers limited options.