Aim: To clinically evaluate the effectiveness of acupuncture when used in the management of chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (PN).
Background: During cancer treatment, certain chemotherapies can cause varying degrees of PN. Patients' quality of life can be seriously impaired through loss of sensation, pain or mobility problems. Conventional medications routinely used to manage neuropathic symptoms have poor side-effect profiles and there is little or no evidence justifying their use to treat chemotherapy-related neurotoxicities. There are studies suggesting that acupuncture may be an effective therapy in treating PN across a number of different aetiologies. Design A retrospective service evaluation.
Method: Patients (n=18) were referred for acupuncture by the medical staff and/ornurse specialists or they self-referred for treatment. A course of six weekly acupuncture sessions was offered to them, and their details were recorded on an evaluation form prior to session one. Points were selected by acupuncturists, based on patient presentation, and needles remained in situ for 30-45 min. Treatments took place in outpatient clinics, chemotherapy day case ward or a drop-in clinic based in a physiotherapy gym. The evaluation form was completed at the end of session 6 by a therapist who had not been involved in patient care.
Results: 82% (n=14) of patients reported an improvement in symptoms following their course of acupuncture; one patient with advanced disease died during the 6 weeks. Some patients derived additional benefits from the treatment including a reduction in analgesic use and improved sleeping patterns. The most common acupoints used were SP6 (n=18), ST36 (n=18) and LV3 (n=14).
Conclusion: Although these results are encouraging, they are uncontrolled. They suggest that acupuncture could be an option for these patients and controlled trials using validated patient-reported outcome measures are justified.