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Acupuncture hailed in cancer patient fatigue tests

Acupuncture’s effectiveness in treating breast cancer patients for fatigue has been shown for the first time in clinical trials, researchers say.

Hundreds of thousands of women overcoming the disease battle with fatigue.

The three-year trial showed acupuncture had across-the-board benefits, alleviating both mental and physical fatigue and improving overall quality of life.

Previously, few treatments were recognised for the up-to-40% of patients needing help for fatigue, devastating their quality of life.

Professor Alex Molassiotis, from the University of Manchester, which led the trial said: “Fatigue is a blight on the lives of thousands of former cancer patients and this trial proves acupuncture can help them.

“We were delighted to see so many patients getting substantial benefit from this treatment, particularly as they currently have limited options available.

“We now need to carry out further work to understand the costs and benefits of delivering acupuncture before it can be made available on the NHS.”

Julie Wray, 55, a mother-of-two from Cheadle, Cheshire, benefited from the acupuncture treatment after suffering fatigue as a result of her breast cancer treatment in 2006.

Mrs Wray, a nursing lecturer at the University of Salford, said: “The fatigue from my breast cancer treatment was so bad, simply driving to work left me exhausted.

“It got to the point that I thought I would have to give up my job.

“But receiving acupuncture treatment allowed me to get my old life back.

“Now I hope other women can benefit from acupuncture following this research.”

More than 300 patients took part in the trial which was funded by Breakthrough Breast Cancer and conducted at 10 hospitals across the country including Manchester’s Christie Hospital and the Royal Marsden in London.

The results are published today in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Acupuncture use in mainstream UK healthcare is in its infancy - it is only used on the NHS to treat lower back pain.

The trial authors called for tests to be set up looking at the cost-effectiveness of acupuncture with special focus on the benefits for other cancers.

Dr Julia Wilson, Breakthrough Breast Cancer’s research chief, said: “More people are surviving breast cancer than ever before which means quality of life after treatment is becoming increasingly important.

“These are very promising results which suggest acupuncture could reduce fatigue symptoms and improve the quality of life of many former breast cancer patients.

“It raises the possibility that acupuncture could become a standard treatment for fatigue, although we are still some years from that becoming a reality.”

<http://jco.ascopubs.org/content/early/2012/10/29/JCO.2012.41.6222.abstract?sid=b2784545-82ce-4c04-80dd-4bc7de3cb4f8> (Journal of Clinical Oncology, DOI:10.1200/JCO.2012.41.6222)

Readers' comments (4)

  • The power of Placebo !

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  • I currently use acupuncture to alleviate hot flushes associated with breast cancer treatment and have been amazed by the results.

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  • the power of the western "education" system to narrow your mind

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  • let's try using the power of western education to expand on the "placebo" argument.

    in the quoted study 75 participants were assigned to "usual care" which consisted of giving them a booklet about fatigue and it's management. 227 participants were assigned to the accupuncture group, which consisted of giving them the above mentioned booklet, plus 6 weekly accupuncture sessions, plus 18 weekly follow up sessions.

    the obvious confounding variable is the amount of human contact, including touch, with a therapist who is interested in and concerned about the participant, which the accupuncture group received unlike the usual care group (the word "care" in this instance feels inappropriate!)

    hopefully professor molassiotis intends to control for this variable in future research, perhaps comparing accupuncture with aromatherapy or non-directional counselling, with sessions carefully matched for time with the therapist, etc.

    why use invasive procedures if talk or touch maybe just as effective? western education is most powerful when comparing different hypotheses, so hopefully the professor will clarify the situation soon.

    (ps. i could only access the abstract of the original article, so the professor may have already clarified the situation in his discussion section!)

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