Is Acupuncture A Reliable Treatment For Cancer


Acupuncture for oncology has been a hot topic of debate ever since the announcement of a “ Acupuncture for cancer symptom management” subspecialty at a historical National Cancer Association Conference in 2016. Since then doctors have been actively trying to research the true benefits of acupuncture as a form of cancer-relief therapy.

A recent study conducted by the European journal of Cancer Care, was published on February 7th and consisted of 36 different trials test amongst a sample size of 2213 patients. The study was conducted in order to start understanding the effects of acupuncture as a source of treatment for tumors as well as chemotherapy and problems caused by malignancy and surgery related pain.

In an investigative summary pertaining to the effects of acupuncture for Chemotherapy and radiation therapy shows that results also tend to be quite unclear because their association with neuropathic pain, which is more complicated and therefore harder to treat.

“The problem with Tumors is that they tend to press against bones and organs, making the utilization of surgical incisions seem counterproductive because they disrupt tissue” Claimed PHD H.Y.Chien from the Taipei Medical University in Taiwan.

When looking at the overall study, the effect of acupuncture on cancer-related pain came out to .45 on a 95% confidence level, meaning that they were substantial but not tangible enough to base decisions. However, On a sub analysis indicated that acupuncture relieved malignancy and surgery induced pain, but not chemotherapy or RT induced and hormone therapy-induced pain.

Although the study was conducted by the European Journal of Cancer Care, Two Chief acupuncturists at major US cancer centers who have lead a multitude of clinical trials had reasonable doubts about the results of the study that took place.

WIedong Lu, The lead oncology acupuncturist at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, thinks that the lack of efficacy in the results are a problem stemmed by the level of familiarity they conducted in creating the trials for each type of cancer related pain.

“In my experience, acupuncture works reasonably well when treating chemo-related pain such as chemotherapy-induced neuropathy” he told Medscape medical news.

Although he did agree with the conclusions drawn about the neuropathic tendency of chemo and Radiation-based pain. He also said that the “treatment dosage needed might be different than other types of pain”

Ting Bao, the director of integrative breast oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Believes that the results obtained are a causation of the factors used to conduct the test, and not the actual effectiveness of acupuncture.

“It does not make too much sense to me that only tumor-related pain and surgery-induced pain were relieved by acupuncture” She told Medscape Medical News

the results were more of a product of the difference in study design rather than the difference in response to acupuncture.

Information about the study
1) The mean age of patients was 56.7 years.
2) Out of 36 randomized trials, 17 were related to malignancy, 11 on chemotherapy or RT, 5 on surgery and 3 on hormone therapy.
3) Only four different trials actually mentioned that the treatments were performed on the basis of the Chinese medicine theory, which governs the entire process of applying needles, heat and pressure in order to relieve pain through acupuncture.
4) Twenty trials in the study used analgesics as a comparator or blunt needles thus resulting in a sham study.

It is extremely important to Institute uniform tests when analyzing any study. This standard is key when it comes to Practicing Acupuncture for oncology claimed Dr. Bao.

Other doctors including Dr. bao have increasingly been practicing the use of protocols in the methods of which they have handled oncology patients and as the industry continues to grow, more caution will need to be used as we test the true intended benefits of Acupuncture for cancer relief.

“The future is bright for the new subspecialty because we are seeing more scientific evidence supporting the use of acupuncture in cancer care,” – Dr. Wu


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