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Table 2. Clinical Studies of Acupuncture: For Cancer Treatment–related Side Effect: Paina

Reference Citation(s)  Type of Study  Condition Treated  No. of Patients: Enrolled; Treated; Controlb Strongest Benefit Reportedc Concurrent Therapy (Yes/No/ Unknown)d Level of Evidence Scoree 
[20]RCTPain/depression138; 93 acupuncture and massage; 45 usual careIncreased pain relief/decreased depressionYes (usual care)1iiC
[16]RCTPain/depression16; 12 Chinese herbs, auricular EA, or epidural morphine given alone or in combination; 4 placebo controlsCombination treatment better than placebo and EA alone, Chinese herbs alone, or epidural morphine alonefYes (Chinese herbs; epidural morphine)1iC
[19]RCTMusculoskeletal pain51; 23; 20Improved joint pain and stiffnessYes (aromatase inhibitors)1iiC
[17]Nonrandomized controlled trialLocal pain and limitation of arm movement after breast cancer surgery and axillary lymph node dissection80; 48 acupuncture; 32 no acupunctureImproved postoperative pain; improved range of arm motiongUnknown2C
[21]Pilot studyMusculoskeletal pain related to adjuvant aromatase inhibitor therapy21; 19 acupuncture; noneReduced severity and increased functional abilityYes (analgesics: acetaminophen, NSAIDs, or COX-2 inhibitors and various CAM approaches)3iiiC
[18]Retrospective case reviewChemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy18; 17; noneImprovement in symptomsUnknown3iiiC

COX-2 = cyclooxygenase 2; EA = electroacupuncture; No. = number; NSAID = nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug; RCT = randomized controlled trial.
aRefer to text and the NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms for additional information and definition of terms.
bNumber of patients treated plus number of patient controls may not equal number of patients enrolled; number of patients enrolled equals number of patients initially considered by the researcher who conducted a study; number of patients treated equals number of enrolled patients who were given the treatment being studied AND for whom results were reported.
cStrongest evidence reported that the treatment under study has anticancer activity or otherwise improves the well-being of cancer patients.
dConcurrent therapy for symptoms treated (not cancer).
eFor information about levels of evidence analysis and an explanation of the level of evidence scores, refer to Levels of Evidence for Human Studies of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
f P < .05, combination of traditional Chinese medicine (acupuncture and Chinese herbs) and epidural morphine versus placebo.
g P < .01, acupuncture treatment versus no acupuncture treatment.


  1. Li QS, Cao SH, Xie GM, et al.: Combined traditional Chinese medicine and Western medicine. Relieving effects of Chinese herbs, ear-acupuncture and epidural morphine on postoperative pain in liver cancer. Chin Med J (Engl) 107 (4): 289-94, 1994.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  2. He JP, Friedrich M, Ertan AK, et al.: Pain-relief and movement improvement by acupuncture after ablation and axillary lymphadenectomy in patients with mammary cancer. Clin Exp Obstet Gynecol 26 (2): 81-4, 1999.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  3. Donald GK, Tobin I, Stringer J: Evaluation of acupuncture in the management of chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy. Acupunct Med 29 (3): 230-3, 2011.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  4. Crew KD, Capodice JL, Greenlee H, et al.: Randomized, blinded, sham-controlled trial of acupuncture for the management of aromatase inhibitor-associated joint symptoms in women with early-stage breast cancer. J Clin Oncol 28 (7): 1154-60, 2010.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  5. Mehling WE, Jacobs B, Acree M, et al.: Symptom management with massage and acupuncture in postoperative cancer patients: a randomized controlled trial. J Pain Symptom Manage 33 (3): 258-66, 2007.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  6. Crew KD, Capodice JL, Greenlee H, et al.: Pilot study of acupuncture for the treatment of joint symptoms related to adjuvant aromatase inhibitor therapy in postmenopausal breast cancer patients. J Cancer Surviv 1 (4): 283-91, 2007.  [PUBMED Abstract]