Acupuncture and the treatment of late side effects from Western medical treatments for cancer

By Eleanor Davies

Abstract

Western medical treatments for cancer have known side effects which can be just as detrimental to the patient's health and well being as the disease itself. Some of these side effects are poorly managed by Western medicine which can lead to poor patient compliance with these essential treatments, recovery rate and subsequent quality of life can be severely impaired. The research question for this study was can acupuncture alleviate the late side effects from Western treatments for cancer?

A detailed search of relevant literature was carried out of papers published in English between the years 1980 and 2004. A small pilot clinical study of repeated measures design was used.

The SF 36 and MYMOP 2 questionnaires were used to determine the changes in participants symptoms and were administered before and after the course of acupuncture treatment. Both questionnaires were scored using standard points system.
Results were analysed using the SPSS version 11 computer programme and displayed in charts and tables.
The main results of the research were:

  • The literature showed that acupuncture has been used widely and relatively successfully to treat the early side effects, especially of chemotherapy. Little research had been carried out on the late side effects from cancer treatments.
  • Statistically significant improvements were seen in participants symptoms in almost all areas covered by the SF-36 and MYMOP 2 questionnaires.

Strengths and weaknesses of the study have been discussed along with suggestions for further research.
It is concluded that acupuncture treatment can have a beneficial effect on the management of late side effects associated with treatments for cancer.