Acupuncture may be a potential adjunct treatment option for cancer-related fatigue (CRF) in patients with lung cancer receiving palliative care, according to a study published in Supportive Care in Cancer.

One of the most common and subjectively unpleasant adverse effects reported by patients receiving chemotherapy is CRF. CRF is considered to be inevitable by patients, clinicians, and caretakers and has a strong negative impact on the quality of life for patients. Alternative and complementary medicine (CAM), such as acupuncture, may assist in the management of CRF.

This double blind clinical trial randomized 28 patients with lung cancer presenting with CRF 1:1 to receive acupoint stimulation therapy or placebo twice a week for 4 weeks, followed by 2 weeks of follow-up.

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The primary end point of the study was the change in intensity of CFR, which was measured using the Chinese version of the Brief Fatigue Inventory (BFI-C). The secondary end point of the study was the effect of acupuncture on patients’ quality of life, which was measured using the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-Lung Cancer Subscale (FACT-LCS).

Results showed significant improvement in CRF after 2 weeks. BFI-C scores in the acupuncture arm vs the placebo arm, respectively, were 5.1 vs 6.3 after 2 weeks (P <.01), 5.2 vs 6.6 after 4 weeks (P =.005), and 4.5 vs 7.1 after 6 weeks (P <.001).

Patients also reported significant improvements in their quality of life, with FACT-LCS scores in the acupuncture arm vs placebo arm, respectively, of 96.1 vs 90.3 after 4 weeks (P =.04), and 98.0 vs 89.3 after 6 weeks (P =.002).

This pilot study demonstrates that acupuncture may be a safe and effective alternative to pharmacotherapy in managing CRF. The researchers conclude saying “future appropriately powered trials are warranted to evaluate the effect of acupuncture among lung cancer patients experiencing fatigue.”


1. Cheng VS, Chen LY, Ning ZY, et al. Acupuncture for cancer-related fatigue in lung cancer patients: a randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled pilot trial [published online July 13, 2017].

Support Care Cancer. doi: 10.1007/s00520-017-3812-7