Acupuncture Reduces Pain in Head and Neck Cancer Patients

HealthDay News reported that 2 of the more common and unpleasant side effects of treatment for head and neck cancer patients may be relieved by acupuncture.

Dr. David Pfister, chief of the head and neck medical oncology service at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City presented the findings May 31, 2008 at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting, in Chicago.

He reported that patients found significant reductions in both dry mouth and pain and shoulder dysfunction after neck dissection. “Although further studies are needed, this does support the potential role of acupuncture,” said Pfister.

Removal of the lymph nodes and surrounding tissue is common in treating head and neck cancers and the dissection can be severe. “Side effects vary with the extent of the procedure,” Pfister said. Pain and shoulder dysfunction are common but exercise and anti-inflammatory drugs have proved to be disappointing or incomplete.

In the study, 70 patients were randomized to receive weekly acupuncture sessions for four weeks or “usual care” (suggestions for physical therapy exercises and anti-inflammatory pain relievers). Almost 40 % of participants receiving acupuncture experienced improvements in both pain and mobility, compared with just 7 % in the standard-care group.


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