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A Randomized Sham-Controlled Mixed Methods Pilot Study of the Feasibility of Acupuncture for Chemotherapy-Induced Neuropathy: Lessons Learned From Patient Experiences in Integrative Cancer Care.

  • Lagerstedt, Kristina1
  • Efverman, Anna2
  • 1 Region of Kronoberg, Växjö, Sweden. , (Sweden)
  • 2 University of Gävle, Gävle, Sweden. , (Sweden)
Published Article
Integrative cancer therapies
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2023
DOI: 10.1177/15347354231178877
PMID: 37294052


Since there is a lack of effective pharmacological therapies for chemotherapy-induced neuropathy and many patients ask for integrative cancer therapies such as acupuncture, the objective of this pilot study was to describe patients' experiences, and to study the feasibility and short-term effects of genuine acupuncture for chemotherapy-induced neuropathic pain and unpleasant sensations compared to sham acupuncture. The pilot study used mixed methods, collecting quantitative and qualitative data. Patients (n = 12) with chemotherapy-induced neuropathy after colorectal cancer were blindly randomized to genuine acupuncture or telescopic sham acupuncture. Individual interviews were conducted, and were analyzed using qualitative content analysis. The patients registered pain and unpleasant sensations (100 mm Visual Analog Scales) before and after n = 120 sessions, n = 60 genuine and n = 60 sham acupuncture sessions. Five categories of patient experiences were described. The neuropathy negatively affected life. Physical activity was perceived to be important for health, but neuropathy was a barrier. The neuropathy required symptom-managing strategies. Acupuncture was pleasant and valuable, but some patients presented doubts regarding its effect mechanisms. After the genuine acupuncture sessions, pain (mean -2.0 steps relief during each session) and unpleasant sensations (-2.4) in the face was reduced more than after sham acupuncture (+0.1 steps worse pain, P = .018, +0.1 steps worse unpleasant sensations, P = .036). After genuine acupuncture, unpleasant sensations in the hands were reduced less (-0.23) compared to after sham acupuncture (-5.5, P = .002). Pain or unpleasant sensations in the feet did not change. Patients experienced that the neuropathy negatively changed their life and that acupuncture was pleasant and valuable. Patients receiving genuine acupuncture had short-term effects regarding pain and unpleasant sensations in the face compared to patients receiving sham acupuncture, while hands and feet did not improve. The patients were successfully blinded and complied with the acupuncture. We welcome future full-scaled randomized sham-controlled acupuncture studies.

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