Is acupuncture the new treatment for cancer?

There are many types of cancer treatment. The types of treatment that you have will depend on the type of cancer you have and how advanced it is. Some people with cancer will have only one treatment. But most people have a combination of treatments, such as surgery with chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. You may also have immunotherapy, targeted therapy, hormone therapy or acupuncture.

Clinical trials might also be an option for you. Clinical trials are research studies that involve people. Understanding what they are and how they work can help you decide if taking part in a trial is a good option for you.

When you need treatment for cancer, you have a lot to learn and think about. It is normal to feel overwhelmed and confused. But, talking with your doctor and learning all you can about all your treatment options, including clinical trials, can help you make a decision you feel good about.

The use of acupuncture and/or acupressure is associated with reduced cancer pain and decreased use of analgesics, according to a review published online Dec. 19 in JAMA Oncology, Medical Xpress reports.

Yihan He, Ph.D., from the Second Affiliated Hospital of Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine in China, and colleagues conducted a systematic literature review to identify randomized clinical trials (RCTs) that compared acupuncture and acupressure with a sham control, analgesic therapy, or usual care for managing cancer pain.

The researchers identified 17 RCTs (1,111 patients) and used data from 14 RCTs (920 patients) in the meta-analysis. Seven high-quality sham-controlled RCTs (35 percent) showed that real, compared with sham, acupuncture was associated with reduced pain intensity. Among six RCTs, there was a positive association noted between the combination of acupuncture and acupressure with analgesic therapy for reducing pain intensity. Two RCTs showed that the combination reduced opioid dose. Due to significant heterogeneity among the studies, the evidence was graded as moderate.

‘This finding suggests that more rigorous trials are needed to identify the association of acupuncture and acupressure with specific types of cancer pain and to integrate such evidence into clinical care to reduce opioid use,’ the authors write.