Acupuncture could help to relieve a common side effect of cancer treatment, according to a small new study. Research published in the Annals of Oncology shows that head and neck cancer survivors with dry mouth -- also called xerostomia, a common side effect of radiotherapy treatments where there is not enough saliva in the mouth -- who underwent acupuncture reported fewer symptoms of the condition than those who only had educational sessions about oral care.
"This is a very neglected group of patients suffering from a most unpleasant side-effect of treatment for which all other ameliorative interventions have failed to address adequately," study researcher Dr. Richard Simcock, a consultant clinical oncologist at the Sussex Cancer Centre, said in a statement. "The acupuncture intervention has been designed in a way that allows it to be delivered simply and cheaply in normal hospital surroundings and yet still produces a significant benefit for patients with a chronic symptom."
The study included 145 head and neck cancer survivors, all of whom experienced symptoms of dry mouth because of their cancer treatments. Some of the survivors had eight weeks of acupuncture sessions (20 minutes a week), while others attended an hour-long education session about oral care once a month.