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  • Writer's picturePhilip Niño Tan-Gatue

Acupuncture Relieves Pancreatic Cancer Pain

Pancreatic Cancer

Our research article today is from the journal Pancreatology.  The article in particular is Electroacupuncture treatment for pancreatic cancer pain: A randomized controlled trial e-published October 23.  The abstract is here.

Pancereatic cancer is one of the more pressing problems in medicine today.  Because it is diagnosed usually in the later stages, it is usually too late to do anything about it.  Even with aggressive treatment, five year survival rate is less than 5%. (via Medical News Today – link)

It is often accompanied by severe abdominal and/or low back pain.  Thus, the goal of this study is to evaluate the ability of electroacupuncture to alleviate this pain.  According to the authors, it is the first study to try to do so.

The Study Design

Sixty patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer were divided into a treatment group and a placebo group.  While the placebo group received sham acupuncture (unfortunately the article did not specify what kind), the treatment group got the following:

Patients were treated on Jiaji (Ex-B2) points T8-T12 bilaterally for 30 min once a day for 3 days. Pain intensity was assessed with numerical rated scales (NRS) before the treatment (Baseline), after 3 treatments, and 2 days follow-up.

What this means is that the huatuojiaji points located at the back were treated with electroacupuncture.


The Results

After studying the results, it was obvious that the electroacupuncture group had a significant difference in pain compared to the placebo group.  The study says:

pain intensity on NRS decreased compared with Baseline (-1.67, 95% confidence interval [CI] -1.46 to -1.87) in the electroacupuncture group; there was little change (-0.13, 95% CI 0.08 to -0.35) in control group; the difference between two groups was statistically significant (P < 0.001). Follow-up also found a significant reduction in pain intensity in the electroacupuncture group compared with the control group (P < 0.001).

What do we mean by statistically significant?  This means that the difference between the two groups is big enough that we can’t just say that it was dumb luck that caused the difference.

The authors concluded that electroacupuncture is an effective treatment for controlling pancreatic cancer pain.

References: (accessed December 5, 2013)

Chen, et al. Electroacupuncture treatment for pancreatic cancer pain: A randomized controlled trial. Pancreatology. 2013 Nov-Dec;13(6):594-7. doi: 10.1016/j.pan.2013.10.007. Epub 2013 Oct 23.

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