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Acupuncture for cancer pain

Clinical bottom line

Only a single small trial was randomised and double blind.


H Lee et al. Acupuncture for the relief of cancer-related pain - a systematic review. European Journal of Pain 2005 9: 437-444.


Seven databases were used for all clinical studies of acupuncture of any sort in cancer patients, with pain as the main outcome.


Only one randomised and double blind trial of ear acupuncture versus placebo acupuncture in about 90 patients. It reported significantly decreased pain in the acupuncture group.


Despite statistical significance in this one trial, we know that small studies are more vulnerable to chance effects. The likelihood of this being repeatable is small, by analogy with both other acupuncture studies in other areas, and small studies of conventional treatments.