Breast Cancer Research and Treatment

, Volume 118, Issue 2, pp 255-267

First online:

The efficacy of acupoint stimulation for the management of therapy-related adverse events in patients with breast cancer: a systematic review

  • Li-Fen ChaoAffiliated withSchool of Nursing, Chang Gung UniversityDepartment of Nursing, Chang Gung Institute of Technology
  • , Anthony Lin ZhangAffiliated withDiscipline of Chinese Medicine, RMIT University
  • , Hsueh-Erh LiuAffiliated withSchool of Nursing, Chang Gung University
  • , Ming-Huei ChengAffiliated withDepartment of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Chang Gung College of Medicine, Chang Gung University
  • , Hung-Bun LamAffiliated withDepartment of General Surgery, Mackay Memorial Hospital
  • , Sing Kai LoAffiliated withFaculty of Arts and Sciences, Hong Kong Institute of Education Email author 

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The aim of the present study was to scrutinize the evidence on the use of acupoint stimulation for managing therapy-related adverse events in breast cancer. A comprehensive search was conducted on eight English and Chinese databases to identify clinical trials designed to examine the efficacy of acupressure, acupuncture, or acupoint stimulation (APS) for the management of adverse events due to treatments of breast cancer. Methodological quality of the trials was assessed using a modified Jadad scale. Using pre-determined keywords, 843 possibly relevant titles were identified. Eventually 26 papers, 18 in English and eight in Chinese, satisfied the inclusion criteria and entered the quality assessment stage. The 26 articles were published between 1999 and 2008. They assessed the application of acupoint stimulation on six disparate conditions related to anticancer therapies including vasomotor syndrome, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, lymphedema, post-operation pain, aromatase inhibitors-related joint pain and leukopenia. Modalities of acupoint stimulation used included traditional acupuncture, acupressure, electroacupuncture, and the use of magnetic device on acupuncture points. Overall, 23 trials (88%) reported positive outcomes on at least one of the conditions examined. However, only nine trials (35%) were of high quality; they had a modified Jadad score of 3 or above. Three high quality trials revealed that acupoint stimulation on P6 (NeiGuang) was beneficial to chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. For other adverse events, the quality of many of the trials identified was poor; no conclusive remarks can be made. Very few minor adverse events were observed, and only in five trials. APS, in particular acupressure on the P6 acupoint, appears beneficial in the management of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, especially in the acute phase. More well-designed trials using rigorous methodology are required to evaluate the effectiveness of acupoint stimulation interventions on managing other distress symptoms.


Acupuncture Evidence-based Chinese medicine Breast cancer Adverse event Critical appraisal