Acupuncture and Moxibustion for Cancer-related Fatigue: a Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

  • He, Xi-Ran (Department of Integration of Traditional Chinese and Western Medicine, Perking University Cancer Hospital & Institute, The School of Clinical Oncology of Peking University, Key Laboratory of Carcinogenesis and Translational Research (Ministry of Education), Peking University) ;
  • Wang, Quan (The School of Clinical Oncology of Peking University) ;
  • Li, Ping-Ping (Department of Integration of Traditional Chinese and Western Medicine, Perking University Cancer Hospital & Institute, The School of Clinical Oncology of Peking University, Key Laboratory of Carcinogenesis and Translational Research (Ministry of Education), Peking University)
  • Published : 2013.05.30


Background: Faced with highly prevalent and recalcitrant cancer-related fatigue (CRF), together with the absence of any official guidelines on management, numerous groups have been striving to seek and test alternative therapies including acupuncture and moxibustion. However, different patients have various feedbacks, and the many clinical trials have given rise to varied conclusions. In terms of the therapeutic effect of acupuncture and moxibustion, there exist vast inconsistencies. Objective: The aim of the study was to evaluate the auxiliary effectiveness of acupuncture and moxibustion in the treatment of CRF, and to provide more reliable evidence to guide clinical practice. Methods: Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) published before December 2012 were all aggregated, focusing on evaluation of acupuncture or moxibustion for CRF. The quality of the included studies was assessed basing on Cochrane handbook 5.1.0, and the available data were analyzed with RevMan software (version 5.2.0). Descriptive techniques were performed when no available data could be used. Results: A total of 7 studies involving 804 participants were eligible. With real acupuncture versus sham acupuncture, subjects receiving true acupuncture benefited more in the reduction of fatigue. With real acupuncture versus acupressure or sham acupressure, fatigue level appeared 36% improved in the acupuncture group, but 19% in the acupressure group and only 0.6% with sham acupressure. When real acupuncture plus enhanced routine care was compared with enhanced routine care, the combination group improved mean scores for general fatigue, together with physical and mental fatigue. With real acupuncture versus sham acupuncture or wait list controls, the real acupuncture group displayed significant advantages over the wait list controls at 2 weeks for fatigue improvement and better well-being effects at 6 weeks. When moxibustion plus routine care was compared with routine care alone, the meta-analyses demonstrated the combination had a relatively significant benefit in improving severe fatigue and QLQ-C30. Conclusion: Up to the search date, there exist few high quality RCTs to evaluate the effect of acupuncture and moxibustion, especially moxibustion in English. Yet acupuncture and moxibustion still appeared to be efficacious auxiliary therapeutic methods for CRF, in spite of several inherent defects of the included studies. Much more high-quality studies are urgently needed.


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