Effectiveness of acupuncture for palliative care in cancer patients: a systematic review

Chin J Integr Med. 2014 Feb;20(2):136-47. doi: 10.1007/s11655-013-1439-1. Epub 2013 Dec 13.


Objective: To critically evaluate the currently available randomized clinical trials regarding the effectiveness of acupuncture in palliative care for cancer patients, hence, to provide sufficient evidences for the widespread use of acupuncture in cancer treatment.

Methods: Two independent reviewers extracted data from all of the randomized clinical trials (RCTs) that assessed the efficacy of acupuncture in palliative care for cancer patients. Seven databases were searched from their respective inception to December 2010. All eligible trials identified were evaluated by two independent reviewers using the Jadad scale, and data from the articles were validated and extracted.

Results: In total, 33 RCTs met the inclusion criteria. The effects of acupuncture on different cancer-related aspects were shown, including chemotherapy or radiotherapy-induced side effects (13/33, 39.4%), cancer pain (6/33, 18.2%), post-operative urinary retention (4/33, 12.1%), quality of life (2/33, 6.1%), vasomotor syndrome (2/33, 6.1%), post-operative gastrointestinal dysfunction (2/33, 6.1%), prevention of prolonged postoperative ileus (2/33, 6.1%), joint symptoms (1/33, 3.0%), and immunomodulation (1/33, 3.0%).

Conclusions: The result of our systematic review suggested that the effectiveness of acupuncture in palliative care for cancer patients is promising, especially in reducing chemotherapy or radiotherapyinduced side effects and cancer pain. Acupuncture may be an appropriate adjunctive treatment for palliative care.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Therapy* / adverse effects
  • Drug Therapy
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / surgery
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Palliative Care*
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology
  • Postoperative Complications / therapy
  • Quality of Life
  • Radiotherapy / adverse effects
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Treatment Outcome