The following article features coverage from the 2018 Palliative Care in Oncology Symposium meeting. Click here to read more of Oncology Nurse Advisor‘s conference coverage.

Study results presented at the 2018 Palliative and Supportive Care in Oncology Symposium suggest that acupuncture may help provide relief from some symptoms of cancer and/or cancer treatment.

In this study, 375 patients with cancer were underwent acupuncture treatment at a comprehensive cancer center’s outpatient integrative medicine clinic in 2016. Patients completed Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale (ESAS) reports before and after acupuncture treatments. Scores were compared from baseline to the initial follow-up and before and after each treatment.

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Breast and thoracic/head and neck cancers were the most prevalent cancer types among the study patients (32.8% and 25.9%, respectively).

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The mean number of acupuncture treatments was 4.6 (SD 5.1), with 73.3% of patients pursuing at least 1 follow-up treatment. The most severe initial symptom scores related to pain, well-being, fatigue, and, especially, sleep.

With the first treatment, there were overall before/after improvements in all symptoms (P <.001). The greatest mean symptom reduction was seen for hot flashes, and there were improvements also for nausea, numbness/tingling, and fatigue.

Global symptom improvement (P =.048) occurred from first treatment to initial follow-up, with a particular improvement in spiritual pain (P <.001). Improvements in clinical response were greatest for nausea (57.3% of patients), dry mouth (57.8%), and spiritual pain (58.9%) after the first follow-up.

In this study of patients treated for cancer, acupuncture treatment appeared to show improvements for many symptoms, both rapidly and across treatments, and the authors recommended further research to determine the appropriate frequency of treatments.

Read more of Cancer Therapy Advisor‘s coverage of the 2018 Palliative Care in Oncology Symposium meeting by visiting the conference page.


Lopez G, Garcia MK, Liu W, et al. Outpatient acupuncture effects on patient self-reported symptoms in oncology care: A retrospective analysis of real-world data. J Clin Oncol. 2018;36(suppl 34). Abstract 135.