BackgroundAcupuncture is an innovative and scientifically supported treatment for oncologic patients, as well as an effective palliative care option. At the Palliative Care Department of “Misericordia” Grosseto Hospital in Tuscany, real integration of acupuncture in palliative medicine has been possible. The objective of this work is to retrospectively evaluate patient treatment outcomes obtained using an integrated medical care approach administered within a palliative care unit.

MethodsMedical records of oncology patients admitted to the palliative care unit who voluntarily underwent integrated therapy with acupuncture were retrospectively analyzed.

Treatment was innovative and personalized and included the use of

  •  points based on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM),
  •  points based on the Microsystems Acupuncture Technique,
  •  points based on psychic action (Shen Ling).

Codified evaluation indexes were used to rate patient status at the beginning of treatment and after 1-2 months. Treatment outcomes were evaluated for oncologic patients voluntarily participating as palliative care outpatients or inpatients receiving integrated acupuncture therapy.

Results172 cancer patients treated over a two-year period received a total of approximately 600 treatments, with 92.4% of patients reporting improvement of symptoms. Examination of patient data obtained from the SF 12 questionnaire and of patient assessments based on the Edmonton Symptoms Assessment Scale (ESAS) revealed remarkable improvement in perceived health 2 months after initiation of integrated therapy (p<0.01). Specifically, marked post-treatment improvement in symptoms of pain, fatigue, nausea, sleep disturbance, anxiety, loss of appetite, shortness of breath, cough and well-being were observed, with no improvement observed for dry mouth or depression. No major side effects were reported.

ConclusionsAcupuncture is a promising and safe adjunctive therapy for management of common symptoms that afflict oncological patients during all stages of disease, including symptoms of patients nearing the end of life in a home or hospice setting.

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