In a nutshell
This study examined if acupuncture is an effective treatment for patients with nerve damage caused by chemotherapy for breast cancer. The results showed that patients had improved sensory and muscle symptoms, less pain, and improved quality of life following acupuncture treatment.
One side effect of chemotherapy is nerve damage that can last after treatment is finished. Nerve damage can cause pain, numbness, pinpricking sensations, and muscle weakness. While medications are available to treat never damage, they are not effective for all patients and can cause other side effects.
Acupuncture is a practice where small needles are inserted into different body points to stimulate nerves in that area. Acupuncture is often used to help with chemotherapy side effects. However, it is unknown if it is useful for patients with long-lasting nerve damage following chemotherapy.
Methods & findings
33 patients with nerve damage following chemotherapy for breast cancer were divided into two groups. 16 patients received acupuncture for 8 weeks (acupuncture group) and 17 patients did not (control group). The control group received standard care. Patients’ symptoms of nerve damage were evaluated before and after the 8 weeks.
Patients scored the severity of their symptoms using a questionnaire. In both groups, the average score before treatment was 2.5. After 8 weeks, the average score was decreased by 1 point in the acupuncture group, and by 0.3 in the control group. 65% of patients in the acupuncture group and 35% of patients in the control group had a significant reduction in their symptoms after 8 weeks.
Nerve damage symptoms can be divided into those that affect sensation (numbness, pinprick sensations) and those that affect movement (muscle weakness). 60% of the acupuncture group and 30% of the control group had improved sensation scores. 35% of the acupuncture group and 20% of the control group had improved movement scores.
After 8 weeks, 49.8% of the acupuncture group and 5.4% of the control group had an improved quality of life. Patients in the acupuncture group also had significantly reduced pain severity while the control group had slightly increased pain severity.
No serious side effects were reported during acupuncture treatment.
The bottom line
The authors concluded that acupuncture can significantly improve symptoms of nerve damage caused by chemotherapy.
The fine print
This study was limited by the small number of participants and should be repeated in a larger group. As the control group did not receive any treatment, it is difficult to compare the two groups fairly. A longer treatment time would be useful to understand how effective acupuncture is.
Published By :
Apr 01, 2020
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