Journal Article
Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
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Acupuncture for the treatment of the pain-fatigue-sleep disturbance-numbness/tingling symptom cluster in breast cancer survivors: a feasibility trial.

PURPOSE: Breast cancer survivors following disease-modifying treatment frequently experience multiple-concurrent symptoms (Jansana et al. in Int J Cancer 149(10):1755 1767, 2021), negatively impacting their quality of life and increasing the risk of polypharmacy (Alwhaibi et al. in J Oncol Pharm Pract 26(5):1052 1059, 2020). This study evaluates the feasibility and acceptability of acupuncture for the management of the pain-fatigue-sleep disturbance-numbness/tingling symptom cluster in breast cancer survivors, and investigates relationships between the symptom cluster and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) syndrome diagnosis.

METHODS: This was a single-arm, pre-test/post-test feasibility trial conducted at Chris O'Brien Lifehouse Hospital, Australia. Breast cancer survivors who completed treatment and experienced clinically significant levels of two or more symptoms (pain, fatigue, sleep disturbance, numbness/tingling) were eligible to participate in the individualized, pragmatic 6-week acupuncture intervention. The primary outcome was feasibility and acceptability. Effectiveness was explored using a symptom cluster mean score.

RESULTS: Twenty women enrolled in the study over an 11-week period and 90% completed the study. Most women agreed or completely agreed that acupuncture was feasible (85%), acceptable (90%), and appropriate (90%). Both mean and composite symptom cluster scores were significantly reduced (p < 0.001), as were individual symptom scores in fatigue (p < 0.001), sleep disturbance (p = 0.04), and numbness/tingling (p = 0.01). TCM syndromes most closely associated with this symptom cluster were Spleen qi deficiency and Heart fire. No adverse events were reported.

CONCLUSION: This study demonstrated that acupuncture was safe and feasible, justifying a powered randomized control trial. Preliminary findings suggest beneficial effects of acupuncture for the management of the pain-fatigue-sleep disturbance-numbness/tingling symptom cluster for women with breast cancer. TCM syndromes identified in this trial may be used to guide acupuncture treatment protocols.

CLINICAL TRIAL REGISTRATION: This trial was registered with the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ACTRN12622000590763) on 21 April 2022.

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