Evaluation of Group Acupuncture for Cancer-Related Symptoms: A Retrospective Analysis

Cindy Tofthagen, Sarah Boses, Gene Healy, Nuruddin Jooma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background: Acupuncture is being used for treatment of cancer-related symptoms in numerous settings, yet empirical evidence supporting the effects of acupuncture in this setting is lacking. Group acupuncture is an economical way to provide acupuncture to patients at a reduced cost. Objective: In this retrospective study we sought to evaluate the effects of group acupuncture on specific cancer-related symptoms in persons receiving outpatient cancer treatment. Methods: Patients were receiving group acupuncture treatments through an integrative oncology program in a large community oncology practice in west central Florida. A short patient-completed assessment of seven basic cancer-related symptoms using a 0-10 numeric rating scale was completed at each acupuncture treatment. Basic demographic information, including age, gender, race/ethnicity, and cancer type was obtained from the medical record. Paired sample t-tests were used to evaluate differences in symptoms before the first treatment and at the fourth treatment. Results: Fifty patients completed at least four weekly acupuncture treatments in 2014. Forty-three of them completed symptom assessments and were included in this analysis. The mean age of participants was 66.4 years. The majority of patients were white, non-Hispanic, and female. No significant improvement in symptoms were identified at the third treatment. At the time of the fourth group acupuncture, participants reported significantly less pain/numbness and problems with digestion. Discussion: The results of this study provide evidence to support the efficacy of group acupuncture for pain, neuropathy, and digestive problems in persons with cancer. A minimum of four weekly treatments may be necessary before improvements are noted. Limitations include a retrospective design, incomplete symptom evaluation, and possible response bias. Future studies of group acupuncture for cancer-related symptoms should utilize a prospective, controlled design, use validated measures to thoroughly evaluate targeted symptoms, and include a more racially and ethnically diverse sample.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)878-880
Number of pages3
JournalJournal of Palliative Medicine
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Nursing
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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