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Brighton study’s relief for cancer patients
9:30am Saturday 27th October 2012 in News
Acupuncture can help provide relief from the distressing side effects of radiotherapy, a new study has claimed.
Researchers from Brighton and Sussex Medical School investigated patients being treated for head and neck cancer.
The patients were suffering from a dry mouth caused by damage to their salivary glands from the radiation.
Senior research fellow Valerie Jenkins worked with Richard Simcock, a consultant oncologist at Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton, and medics at six other cancer centres around the UK.
They looked at the effect acupuncture would have on dry mouth, also known as xerostomia.
More than 40% of cancer patients continue to suffer the condition five years after their treatment.
Xerostomia affects a patient’s quality of life, interfering with taste, chewing, speaking and sleeping.
Short-term solutions such as mouthwashes, gels and toothpastes provide some respite, while treatment with a drug called pilocarpine has its own unwanted side-effects.
The trial recruited 145 patients suffering from radiation-induced xerostomia to compare acupuncture with education about oral care.
Patients who had received nine weeks of acupuncture were twice as likely to report improvements in their condition as patients receiving oral care, even though the researchers found there were no significant changes in saliva production.
Researchers said their findings showed there was more to the alternative medicine than just a placebo effect.
Dr Simcock said: “This is a neglected group of patients suffering from a most unpleasant side-effect for which all other ameliorative interventions have failed to address adequately.
“The acupuncture can be delivered simply and cheaply in normal hospital surroundings and yet still produces a significant benefit for patients with a chronic symptom.”
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