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Sci Rep. 2015 Nov 26;5:16776. doi: 10.1038/srep16776.

Effectiveness of acupuncture and related therapies for palliative care of cancer: overview of systematic reviews.

Wu X1,2, Chung VC1,2, Hui EP1,3, Ziea ET4, Ng BF4, Ho RS2, Tsoi KK2,5, Wong SY1,2, Wu JC1,6.

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Hong Kong Institute of Integrative Medicine, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong.
Jockey Club School of Public Health and Primary Care, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong.
Comprehensive Cancer Trials Unit, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong.
Chinese Medicine Department, Hong Kong Hospital Authority, Hong Kong.
Big Data Decision Analytics Research Centre, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong.
Department of Medicine &Therapeutics, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong.


Acupuncture and related therapies such as moxibustion and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation are often used to manage cancer-related symptoms, but their effectiveness and safety are controversial. We conducted this overview to summarise the evidence on acupuncture for palliative care of cancer. Our systematic review synthesised the results from clinical trials of patients with any type of cancer. The methodological quality of the 23 systematic reviews in this overview, assessed using the Methodological Quality of Systematic Reviews Instrument, was found to be satisfactory. There is evidence for the therapeutic effects of acupuncture for the management of cancer-related fatigue, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting and leucopenia in patients with cancer. There is conflicting evidence regarding the treatment of cancer-related pain, hot flashes and hiccups, and improving patients' quality of life. The available evidence is currently insufficient to support or refute the potential of acupuncture and related therapies in the management of xerostomia, dyspnea and lymphedema and in the improvement of psychological well-being. No serious adverse effects were reported in any study. Because acupuncture appears to be relatively safe, it could be considered as a complementary form of palliative care for cancer, especially for clinical problems for which conventional care options are limited.

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