Acupuncture Prevents Radiation Side Effect in Cancer Patients

Acupuncture can prevent radiation-induced chronic dry mouth, study finds

When given alongside radiation therapy for head and neck cancer, acupuncture has shown for the first time to reduce the debilitating side effect of xerostomia (dry mouth), according to new research from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and Fudan University Shanghai Cancer Center.

Xerostomia, or severe dry mouth, is characterized by reduced salivary flow, which commonly affects patients receiving radiotherapy for head and neck cancer. Most current treatments are palliative and offer limited benefit, according to Lorenzo Cohen, Ph.D., professor in MD Anderson’s Departments of General Oncology and Behavioral Science and director of the Integrative Medicine Program.

The condition impairs quality of life for patients, as it creates difficulties eating, speaking and sleeping, while also increasing the risk for oral infections.

The study, published in the journalCancer, reported findings from the first randomized controlled trial of acupuncture for the prevention of xerostomia.