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Study Suggests Acupuncture May Reduce Radiation-Induced Xerostomia

Patients with cancer experiencing xerostomia may benefit from acupuncture treatment during the radiation stages of therapy.

Patients with cancer experiencing xerostomia may benefit from acupuncture treatment during the radiation stages of therapy. Researchers at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston report patients with head and neck cancer noted fewer xerostomia symptoms after receiving acupuncture three days a week. The results were published in JAMA Network Open.

In reaching this determination, the team studied 339 patients with head and neck cancer undergoing radiation treatment at MD Anderson and Fudan University Cancer Center in Shanghai between December 2011 and July 2015. Subjects were divided into three groups: those who received true acupuncture; a group that received a form of placebo acupuncture; and subjects who received radiation and oral health education, but no acupuncture.

Patients completed a xerostomia questionnaire at baseline, at the end of radiation treatment, and 3 months, 6 months, and 12 months following radiation therapy. The incidence of clinically significant xerostomia 12 months after ending radiation therapy was 35% in the group that received true acupuncture, 48% in the placebo group, and 55% among subjects who received radiation and oral health education, but no acupuncture.

Noting the potential implications for cancer therapy and related complications, the authors suggest further research is warranted in this area.

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