Aims: This systematic review summarises the existing evidence on acupuncture for cancer-related pain.
Methods: Literature searches were conducted in seven databases. All clinical studies of acupuncture, electroacupuncture and ear acupuncture in cancer patients with the main outcome measure of pain were included. Data were extracted according to pre-defined criteria by two independent reviewers and methodological quality was assessed using the Jadad scale.
Results: Of the seven studies included, one high quality randomised clinical trial of ear acupuncture showed statistically significant pain relief in comparison with placebo ear acupuncture. All the other studies were either non-blinded (n=2) or uncontrolled clinical trials (n=4). Most investigations suffered from methodological flaws such as inadequate study design, poor reporting of results, small sample size and overestimation of the results.
Conclusions: The notion that acupuncture may be an effective analgesic adjunctive method for cancer patients is not supported by the data currently available from the majority of rigorous clinical trials. Because of its widespread acceptance, appropriately powered RCTs are needed.