(ChemotherapyAdvisor) – Acupuncture effectively managed symptoms of cancer-related fatigue and improved quality of life in patients with breast cancer, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology online October 29 has found.

“Persistent cancer-related fatigue is a significant problem in as many as 40% of disease-free patients with breast cancer, who experience moderate to severe levels of fatigue even several years after treatment, impacting quality of life,” noted Alexander Molassiotis, RN, PhD, of the University of Manchester, School of Nursing, Manchester, United Kingdom, and colleagues. “To our knowledge, this is the first large multisite trial of its kind and provides some evidence of the effects of acupuncture.”

The “pragmatic” trial randomly assigned 302 outpatients with breast cancer to usual care (n=75) or acupuncture plus usual care (n=227) to assess the effectiveness of acupuncture for cancer-related fatigue. Acupuncturists delivered treatment once weekly for 6 weeks through needling three pairs of acupoints; the usual care group received a booklet about fatigue and its management.

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General fatigue at 6 weeks was the primary outcome, as measured with the Multidimensional Fatigue Inventory (MFI); other measurements included the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy–General quality-of-life scale, and expectation of acupuncture effect.

Of the 302 patients, 246 provided complete data at 6 weeks. Compared with those who received acupuncture and those who did not, difference in mean General Fatigue score was −3.11 (95% CI, −3.97 –−2.25; P<0.001).

Acupuncture also improved all other aspects of fatigue measured by the MFI, with patients reporting “significant improvements in overall fatigue, physical and mental fatigue, activity, motivation, psychological distress, and all domains of quality of life after 6 weeks of acupuncture.”

An accompanying editorial noted this trial provides “compelling evidence that acupuncture may be effective for reducing cancer-related fatigue, at least in the short term,” and emphasized the importance of determining endurance of treatment effects, including identifying “the frequency and duration of acupuncture that are necessary for improvement.”