, Volume 21, Issue 7, pp 2067-2073
Date: 24 Feb 2013

Acupuncture for cancer-related fatigue: a systematic review of randomized clinical trials

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Managing cancer-related fatigue (CRF) is an important element of the palliative care of cancer patients. The aim of this systematic review was to critically evaluate the effectiveness of acupuncture (AT) or electroacupuncture (EA) for CRF.


Fourteen databases were searched from their respective inception to November 2012. Randomized clinical trials (RCTs) of AT or EA for the treatment of CRF were considered for inclusion. The risk of bias/methodological quality was assessed using the method suggested by the Cochrane Collaboration.


Seven RCTs met the eligibility criteria. Most were small pilot studies with serious methodological flaws. Four of the RCTs showed effectiveness of AT or AT in addition to usual care (UC) over sham AT, UC, enhanced UC, or no intervention for alleviating CRF. Three RCTs showed no effect of AT/EA over sham treatment.


Overall, the quantity and quality of RCTs included in the analysis were too low to draw meaningful conclusions. Even in the positive trials, it remained unclear whether the observed outcome was due to specific effects of AT/EA or nonspecific effects of care. Further research is required to investigate whether AT/EA demonstrates specific effects on CRF.