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Support Care Cancer. 2013 Jul;21(7):2067-73. doi: 10.1007/s00520-013-1765-z. Epub 2013 Feb 24.

Acupuncture for cancer-related fatigue: a systematic review of randomized clinical trials.

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Medical Research Division, KM Health Technology Research Group, Korea Institute of Oriental Medicine, 483 Exporo, Yuseong-gu, Daejeon 305-811, South Korea.



Managing cancer-related fatigue (CRF) is an important element of the palliative care of cancer patients. The aim of this systematic review was to critically evaluate the effectiveness of acupuncture (AT) or electroacupuncture (EA) for CRF.


Fourteen databases were searched from their respective inception to November 2012. Randomized clinical trials (RCTs) of AT or EA for the treatment of CRF were considered for inclusion. The risk of bias/methodological quality was assessed using the method suggested by the Cochrane Collaboration.


Seven RCTs met the eligibility criteria. Most were small pilot studies with serious methodological flaws. Four of the RCTs showed effectiveness of AT or AT in addition to usual care (UC) over sham AT, UC, enhanced UC, or no intervention for alleviating CRF. Three RCTs showed no effect of AT/EA over sham treatment.


Overall, the quantity and quality of RCTs included in the analysis were too low to draw meaningful conclusions. Even in the positive trials, it remained unclear whether the observed outcome was due to specific effects of AT/EA or nonspecific effects of care. Further research is required to investigate whether AT/EA demonstrates specific effects on CRF.

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