Acupuncture has been recognized as an effective integrative modality for managing peripheral neuropathy. However, data regarding predictors for response to acupuncture in cancer patients experiencing neuropathy are limited. We explored associations between patient characteristics, including traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) diagnosis, and treatment response among cancer patients who received acupuncture for peripheral neuropathy.
We reviewed acupuncture records in cancer outpatients with a primary reason for referral listed as peripheral neuropathy from March 2016 to April 2018. Treatment response was assessed using numbness/tingling score with a modified Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale (ESAS; 0-10 scale) administered before and after each acupuncture treatment. Associations between TCM diagnosis, individual patient characteristics, and treatment response rate were analyzed by Wilcoxon’s test.
A total of 1745 acupuncture records (333 patients) were identified. The majority were female (71%), and 96 (29%) had breast cancer. The median (IQR) reduction in numbness/tingling score was 20% (0-50; P < 0.001). The most frequent TCM diagnosis was qi stagnation (86%) followed by blood stagnation (79%). Presence of blood stagnation and damp accumulation were predictors of poorer response as indicated by less reduction in numbness/tingling score (20% vs. 25%, P < 0.001 and 17% vs. 20%, P = 0.036; respectively). Factors associated with greater reduction in numbness/tingling score included age ≥ 60 (20% vs.17%, P = 0.006), female sex (22% vs. 17% in males, P = 0.039), and BMI ≥ 30 (25% vs. 20% in BMI < 30, P = 0.016).
Certain features of TCM diagnoses were associated with a poorer response, while being older, female, and obese were associated with a better response to treatment with acupuncture for peripheral neuropathy in cancer patients. This data may help design future clinical trials to better understand these factors and evaluate overall response to acupuncture in patients with peripheral neuropathy.
Clinical trial identification
Legal entity responsible for the study
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
Has not received any funding.
All authors have declared no conflicts of interest.