Does acupuncture help cancer patients?
The article ‘Acupuncture for Cancer-Related Fatigue in Patients with Breast Cancer: a pragmatic randomized controlled trail’ was published in the ‘Journal of Clinical Oncology’ in Dec, 2012. The trial was conducted at the University of Manchester under Professor Alexander Molassiotis, a specialist in cancer and supportive care at the University of Manchester, This was the most recent of several similar undertakings which have been conducted in the last twenty years.
This trial was a pragmatic, randomized controlled trial comparing acupuncture with enhanced usual care. The study involved 302 patients who had all received chemotherapy for breast cancer in the five years before the study. Most reported feeling chronically tired for a year or more. 75 women were randomly assigned to receive a booklet (being part of ‘usual care’ procedure) about managing fatigue, while 227 received acupuncture once a week for six weeks as well as a usual care. Treatment was delivered by acupuncturists once a week for 6 weeks through needling three pairs of acupoints.
After six weeks, both groups were asked to rate their levels of fatigue, anxiety, depression and other quality-of-life measures. Among the acupuncture group, general fatigue had dropped by almost four points on a 0-20 scale, compared with a less than a one-point decline in the booklet /usual care only group.
Anxiety and depression scores dropped by even more post-acupuncture, compared with the scores from women in the booklet/usual care only group. Emotional and physical well-being got a greater boost with acupuncture therapy as well, the researchers found.
Amit Sood, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnosota., who was not part of the study, told Reuters that the four-point drop should be considered enough to make acupuncture ”well worth a try” for some people.
Julienne Bower of UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center noted, in response to the study results, that “there is a critical need” for more studies like this to help patients cope with the effects of cancer treatment.
I was invited to the Whittington Hospital’s London Clinic to give acupuncture to some of their cancer patients and also performed similar treatments at the Harley Street Medical Centre.
Here I was introduced to several patients including those suffering from cancer of the breast, kidney, lung, bowel and varying kinds of pelvic cancers. These patients were all undergoing treatment by chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy. After acupuncture treatment, there was general reporting by these patients of noticeable reductions in nausea and vomiting. Levels of fatigue were also reduced with recovery times shortened so that more patients were able to return to some normal living between hospital cancer treatments. It was also seen that patients were more able to release some of the anxiety and depression typically experienced so that their emotional wellbeing was significantly enhanced.
There is widespread general agreement between all types of health professionals, patients and support groups that the value of a more enhanced and positive state of mind is of inestimable value in supporting the healing process.