Remedy for dry mouth due to cancer found in acupuncture

People who are on cancer treatment usually suffer from symptoms of chronic dry mouth. A new study conducted in the United Kingdom reported some improvement in symptoms like dry lips and sticky saliva when patients undergoing cancer treatment were subjected to acupuncture. However, the studies undertaken were not yet clear about how much of that benefit could have been on the result about patients’ expectations that acupuncture would help them or the effect of a therapeutic relationship with their acupuncturist – instead of the actual needles. The study’s lead author said more work is needed to be done to answer these questions.

It is estimated that about half a million people globally develop head and neck cancer each year and most of them suffer from dry mouth. This study runs parallel to a study that was published in May 2010 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology when investigators from the Memorial Sloan- Kettering Cancer Center studied the potential benefits of acupuncture in the patients with cancers of head and neck that had undergone lymph-node surgery or neck dissection.  The study group then randomly assigned 70 patients to either receive weekly acupuncture or a usual care group treatment (without acupuncture but receive physical therapy, pain/anti-inflammatory medication as needed).

Dry mouth which was the common symptom in patients requiring radiation therapy for cancers in the head and neck found that those who had undergone acupuncture had a significant reduction in their pain levels and dry mouth compared to those who had received the usual care treatment. Acupuncturists truly believe that their therapy is indeed helping the patients for years on against dry mouth but there has not been enough evidence for or against it. Most of the head and neck cancer patients do not seek out an alternative medicine thus creating a lack of evidence on this aspect.

Some theories do suggest that acupuncture needles might directly stimulate the salivary glands or they cause an increased brain activity in ways that affects on how the patients take into account their dry mouth symptoms. Some researchers do say that this study cannot be ruled out as a mere placebo effect and is not a reason to dismiss acupuncture as a method of treatment if the treatment is delivered by a qualified practitioner.

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