Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine | Cancer Support | The research

Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine | Cancer Support | The research

Acupuncture for Cancer Pain


Pain is one of the most common consequences of cancer. It has been reported that 30% – 50% of all cancer patients in the early stages of cancer and 70% – 90% of patients with advanced cancer experience intractable pain. Cancer pain is extremely disruptive and its management is crucial to improve quality of life of any cancer patient.


Pailey 2015 (Cochrane SR of 5 RCTs)(86): Insufficient evidence; low to very low quality evidence Hu 2016 (SR of 20 RCTs)(221): Acupuncture plus medication superior to medication alone; very low quality evidence


Chiu 2016 (SR of 29 RCTs)(87): Acupuncture relieved malignancy-related and surgery-induced pain but not pain induced by chemotherapy, radiotherapy or hormone therapy


Acupuncture for Nausea and Vomiting due to Chemotherapy


McKeon 2013 (SR of 7 acupuncture, 6 acupressure RCTs)(21): Acupuncture reduced the frequency of acute vomiting and the dose of rescue medication but did not reduce acute nausea severity or frequency compared to control. Acupressure showed a decrease in frequency of nausea but not acute vomiting or delayed symptoms. All studies used state-ofthe-art combination antiemetics. Insufficient evidence due to underpowered studies; acupuncture low to moderate quality evidence; acupressure moderate to high quality evidence


Garcia 2014 (SR update: 18 new RCTs)(55): Acupuncture is an appropriate referral option for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting


Acupuncture for nerve damage due to Surgery, Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy


It is common for patients to suffer from nerve damage and neuropathic pain from mainstream oncologic treatments such as surgery, Chemotherapy and radiation. Normally it will take a long time for the body to repair the damaged nerves. Unfortunately, most of the time, it may not be a complete recovery.


Franconi 2013 (SR of 3 RCTs, 3 case series, 1 rat study)(160): Acupuncture superior to sham in one RCT; very low quality evidence


Acupuncture for dry mouth during chemotherapy or radiation treatment


Dry mouth is a very common complication in patients treated with radiotherapy for head and neck related cancers. The condition is caused by radiation damage to salivary glands. The symptoms of radiation induced Xerostomia are often permanent, and lead to difficulty in mastication, swallowing and speaking.


Zhuang 2013 (SR of 4 studies)(154): Insufficient evidence Furness 2013 (Cochrane SR of non-parmacological interventions 9 RCTs; 5 acupuncture)(155): Small increase in saliva production; Low quality evidence Hanchanale 2015 (SR of 6 RCTs)(156): Acupuncture was superior to sham; low quality evidence


Acupuncture for hot flushes


Garcia 2015 (SR of 8 RCTs)(150): Acupuncture superior to sham in some studies and superior to baseline in all studies; low quality evidence Johns 2016: (SR of interventions; 2 acupuncture vs medication studies)(151): Acupuncture had similar efficacy to venlafaxine and gabapentin but may have longer durability after completing treatment and fewer side effects


Chen 2016 (SR of 12 RCTs)(152): Acupuncture superior to sham in 3 studies; no different from sham in 6 studies; inferior to hormone therapy in 2 studies; low quality evidence Salehi 2016 (SR of 12 studies)(153): Conflicting evidence; low quality evidence


Chiu 2016 (SR of 7 studies; 4 high quality)(87): Acupuncture yielded small-size effects on reducing hot-flash frequency and the severity of menopause-related symptoms


Acupuncture for fatigue



He 2013 (SR of 7 RCTs)(144): Acupuncture and moxibustion appear to be efficacious adjunctive therapy; Insufficient evidence; low quality evidence Ling 2013 (SR of RCTs)(145): Acupuncture and acupressure tend to be effective, acupuncture more than acupressure; low quality evidence


Posadzki 2013 (SR of 7 RCTs)(146): Conflicting evidence: 4 studies showed acupuncture or acupuncture plus usual care superior to sham, usual care, enhanced usual care or no treatment; 3 studies showed no difference between acupuncture and sham; very low quality evidence Finnegan-John 2013 (SR of CAM 20 studies; 3 acupuncture/acupressure RCTs)(147): Acupuncture may reduce fatigue after cancer treatment; low quality evidence


Zeng 2014 (MA of 7 studies)(148): Acupuncture plus education superior to usual care; low quality evidence


  1. McDonald, John & Janz, Stephen. (2016). The Acupuncture Evidence Project : A Comparative Literature Review (Revised). Australian Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine Association Ltd, Coorparoo