Acupuncture Improves Postoperative Symptoms in Women Undergoing Surgery for Breast Cancer

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Acupuncture has proven effective as an alternative treatment for cancer therapy side effects.
Acupuncture has proven effective as an alternative treatment for cancer therapy side effects.

Acupuncture treatments after breast cancer surgery can reduce pain, nausea, and anxiety for patients, and improve their ability to cope with symptoms during the early postoperative period, according to a study published in the Oncology Nursing Forum.1,2

Researchers at Abbott Northwestern Hospital sought to compare the effect of acupuncture with standard care on pain, nausea, anxiety, and ability to cope among women undergoing surgery for breast cancer.

To conduct the survey, 30 adult women undergoing mastectomy were randomly assigned to 2 acupuncture treatments or usual care after the procedure. Treatments were administered at least 12 hours apart.

Using a tablet computer, participants were asked to rate their levels of pain, nausea, and activity and ability to cope on a scale of 0 to 10 immediately before and after their acupuncture treatment.

Participants in the control group were seen 2 times after surgery at least 12 hours apart, and were asked to rate their symptoms using the same scale.

Study results demonstrate patients' perception of pain, anxiety, and nausea was reduced by approximately 1.5 units. In comparison, patients' perception of pain is reduced by 1.9 units with opioid medications.

Researchers conclude that acupuncture is an effective nonpharmacologic intervention for managing postoperative symptoms in women undergoing surgery for breast cancer. However, they suggest further study is needed before implementing acupuncture into the standard of care.


1. Quinlan-Woodward J, Gode A, Dusek JA, Reinstein AS, Johnson JR, Sendelbach S. Assessing the impact of acupuncture on pain, nausea, anxiety, and coping in women undergoing a mastectomy. Oncol Nurs Forum. 2016;43(6):725-732.

2. Acupuncture improved mastectomy recovery in Abbott Northwestern Hospital study [news release]. EurekAlert! web site. Accessed December 5, 2016.
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