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Curr Treat Options Oncol. 2008 Jun;9(2-3):117-26. doi: 10.1007/s11864-008-0063-3. Epub 2008 Aug 8.

Acupuncture as an evidence-based option for symptom control in cancer patients.

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  • 1Department of Oncology, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada.



Current technology suggests that acupuncture modulates neurological processes within the central nervous system, especially the spinal cord gating mechanisms, cerebral subcortical nuclei, and the hypothalamic-endocrine axis. Many single arm clinical studies report the effectiveness of acupuncture for controlling symptoms in cancer patients. However, the challenge has been to separate the nonspecific effects of the practitioner, as well as regression to the mean, from the neurophysiological effects of needle penetration. Recently, randomized controlled trials have attempted to answer this question, with mixed results. For example, needle penetration (or equivalent stimulation) is effective for nausea and vomiting, whereas it does not appear to be a major factor in reducing hot flashes. Safety and quality are priorities, so regulation of the practice of acupuncture is important, as well as excellent communication between practitioners. In addition, continuing research is mandatory, using validated methodology and reporting principles as outlined in the CONSORT and STRICTA recommendations.

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