Systematic Review with Meta-Analysis: Effectiveness and Safety of Acupuncture as Adjuvant Therapy for Side Effects Management in Drug Therapy-Receiving Breast Cancer Patients

Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2021 Oct 12:2021:9949777. doi: 10.1155/2021/9949777. eCollection 2021.


Objective: To investigate the potential benefits and safety of acupuncture on managing side effects induced by drug therapies in patients with breast cancer using a PRISMA standard systematic review and meta-analysis.

Methods: Published randomised controlled trials from nine databases in English and Chinese language were searched. Trials with a real acupuncture treatment group and a control group with sham acupuncture, no treatment, or waitlist control were included. The primary outcome of this study was the therapeutic effects on five symptoms induced by drug therapies, including gastrointestinal disorder, neuropathy, arthralgia, joint symptoms, and cognitive impairment. The quality of life was assessed as a secondary outcome. The risk of bias of each study was analysed according to the Cochrane Handbook.

Results: Sixteen randomised controlled trials with 1189 participants were included in the meta-analysis. The primary outcome and all subgroup analyses showed statistically significant improvements in the management of side effects by real acupuncture. The quality of life of patients has enhanced during the treatment.

Conclusion: Although the number of publications is limited, a clear preliminary conclusion could be drawn by the meta-analysis, suggesting the beneficial adjuvant role of acupuncture in patients with breast cancer who receive drug therapies. No serious adverse events were observed from all the RCTs, and the safety of acupuncture is ascertained. More standardised and sophisticated large-scale randomised controlled trials are needed to evaluate the findings further.

Publication types

  • Review