Cassileth, B.R., Van Zee, K.J., Chan, Y., Coleton, M.I., Hudis, C.A., Cohen, S., . . . Vickers, A.J. (2011). A safety and efficacy pilot study of acupuncture for the treatment of chronic lymphoedema. Acupuncture in Medicine: Journal of the British Medical Acupuncture Society, 29(3),170–172.doi:10.1136/aim.2011.004069
To evaluate the safety and effectiveness of acupuncture in women diagnosed with chronic lymphedema
Women with chronic lymphedema after breast cancer surgery received acupuncture twice a week for four weeks using Acupoint prescription, chosen by consensus from members of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center Integrative Medicine Service certified acupuncturists.
The study took place at the Integrative Medicine Service and Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
The study has clinical applicability for late effects and survivorship.
The study used a prospective pilot design.
After nine subjects were treated, four women demonstrated a 30% reduction in limb volume after four weeks of treatment, with no significant adverse events occurring. Some patients did experience minor toxicities, such as slight bruising or minor pain at acupuncture site shortly after treatment.
The pilot study suggests that acupuncture for women with arm lymphedema may be practical and was not associated with significant adverse effects. Further research in this area to establish safety and begin to evaluate effectiveness is planned.
Additional robust randomized controlled trials are needed to evaluate the use of acupuncture for the treatment of lymphedema.