Integration of acupuncture into the oncology clinic

Palliat Med. 2002 May;16(3):235-9. doi: 10.1191/0269216302pm540oa.


Purpose/objective: Patients with cancer or symptoms referable to cancer therapy were offered acupuncture as potential palliation of their symptoms. This paper describes the physical integration of the discipline into the Oncology Clinic, and patient perspectives on its availability and efficacy.

Patients and methods: Between August 1999 and May 2000, 123 patients with varying symptoms received acupuncture in our Center's Radiation and Medical Oncology Clinics and Breast Health Center. These patients had 823 visits during this time period. A practice outcome analysis was performed on patients receiving therapy between 1 January 2000 and 30 April 2000. The 89 patients treated during this interval had 444 total visits. In June and July 2000, a questionnaire was administered by phone to 79 of these patients (89%). Standard allopathic care continued while patients were receiving acupuncture.

Results: Major reasons for referral included pain (53%), xerostomia (32%), hot flashes (6%) and nausea/loss of appetite (6%). Patients had a mean of five acupuncture visits (range 1-9). Most patients (60%) showed at least 30% improvement in their symptoms. About one-third of patients had no change in severity of symptoms. There were no untoward effects reported related to the acupuncture. When analysed by diagnosis, these values persist. Irrespective of response to therapy, 86% of respondents considered it 'very important' that we continue to provide acupuncture services.

Conclusion: Acupuncture may contribute to control of symptoms for cancer patients. Expansion of providers, continued patient follow-up, optimization of techniques and prospective objective measurement of response continue in our clinic.

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Therapy / standards*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Attitude
  • Female
  • Flushing / etiology
  • Flushing / therapy
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nausea / etiology
  • Nausea / therapy
  • Neoplasms / complications*
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain Management
  • Palliative Care / methods
  • Palliative Care / standards*
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Xerostomia / etiology
  • Xerostomia / therapy