Acupuncture Continuing Education

Acupuncture For Pancreatic Cancer Pain Research

Researchers conducted a randomized, placebo controlled study to investigate whether or not acupuncture reduces pain associated with pancreatic cancer. This type of cancer is often accompanied by severe abdominal or back pain. The researchers concluded that, “Electroacupuncture was an effective treatment for relieving pancreatic cancer pain.”

Acupuncture is effective for relieving pain. A total of 60 pancreatic cancer patients with severe pain were randomly divided into two groups. Group 1 was the placebo control group and group 2 received verum acupuncture. The acupuncture points used in the study were the Jiaji points from T8 to T12, bilaterally, for a total of 30 minutes of acupuncture needle retention time per office visit. Treatment frequency was once per day for a total of 3 days of care. The pain intensity levels were assessed using numerically rated scales prior to the study, upon completion of the three sessions of acupuncture treatments and at a 2 day follow-up appointment.

The placebo control group showed little to no change in pain levels. The electroacupuncture group showed a significant reduction in pain intensity levels. The improvements were measurable after the 3 sessioncompletion and at the 2 day follow-up appointments. As a result of the findings, the researchers conclude that acupuncture is successful in the reduction of pain associated with pancreatic cancer.

 Acupuncture for the treatment of patients with cancer became recognized as an important treatment application following a 1997 National Institutes of Health study showing that acupuncture is effective for treating nausea due to chemotherapy. Since that time, many studies demonstrated that acupuncture provides important pain relieving benefits for patients undergoing cancer treatments. One of the more recent studies on this topic was conducted at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore for patients receiving medications for treatment of multiple myeloma (MM), cancer of plasma cells that affects bone marrow.

MM is often treated with the pharmaceutical drug bortezomib. Peripheral neuropathy, damage to peripheral nerves, is a common side effect causing pain in cancer patients taking bortezomib. The University of Maryland research finds that acupuncture is effective for relieving peripheral neuropathy pain due to bortezomib intake in cancer patients. This finding affects cancer treatments in that bortezomib induced pain is a dose-limiting factor. The researchers conclude, “Acupuncture is a viable treatment option for MM patients experiencing painful BIPN (bortezomib-induced peripheral neuropathy).”

Patients received acupuncture at a rate of 1-2 times per week or once every two weeks dependent upon clinical responses. Acupuncture points used in the study were: auricular shen men, auricular point zero, two auricular points where electro-dermal signals were detected, LI4 (Hegu), TB5 (Waiguan), LI11 (Quchi) , ST40 (Fenglong) and Bafeng. All patients experienced pain reduction immediately following the first acupuncture visit. No adverse reactions were associated with the acupuncture treatments and patients experienced long lasting pain relief.

Chen, Hao, Tang-Yi Liu, Le Kuai, Ji Zhu, Cai-Jun Wu, and Lu-Ming Liu. "Electroacupuncture treatment for pancreatic cancer pain: A randomized controlled trial." Pancreatology (2013).

Ting Bao, Lixing Lao, Michelle Medeiros, Ruixin Zhang, Susan G. Dorsey, and Ashraf Badros. Medical Acupuncture. September 2012, 24(3): 181-187. doi:10.1089/acu.2011.0868. The University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland.