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Acupuncture eases side effect of radiation

People treated with radiation for head or neck cancer generally get a dry mouth that can be relieved by acupuncture.

Acupuncture eases side effect of radiation

When people with head or neck cancer are treated with radiation, a common side effect is dry mouth, and recent research has shown that this problem can be relieved by acupuncture.Excessive dryness of the mouth is technically termed xerostomia. Researchers from Houston conducted a pilot study to see if radiation-induced xerostomia resulting from radiation therapy for cancer in the head and neck region can be reversed using acupuncture.It was found that among 19 patients treated twice weekly for 4 weeks, scores on a standard xerostomia assessment scale improved significantly at the end of the acupuncture treatment, as well as at 8 weeks after the start of treatment. However, significant increases in average saliva volume or saliva output were not apparent. Nonetheless, at week 5 and week 8, there were significant improvements in total quality-of-life scores, as well as improvements in physical well-being at week 8.
The above study demonstrates that acupuncture can improve the subjective symptoms of dry mouth in patients with radiation-induced xerostomia as early as two weeks after starting treatment, and the benefits can remain at least one month after treatment ends.Though the results are promising, further research is needed to confirm these observations.
Head and Neck
May 2009
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