Written by Karen Pilkington, Edzard Ernst and the CAM-Cancer Consortium.
Updated July 16, 2015

Acupuncture for treatment-induced leukopenia

Abstract and key points

  • Acupuncture usually entails the needling of specific points located on the body surface.
  • The effectiveness of acupuncture for cancer treatment-induced leukopenia is uncertain.
  • Serious complications of acupuncture exist but are probably very rare.

Acupuncture typically entails needling specific points of the body surface. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) philosophy, illness is caused by imbalances of energies in the body and acupuncture is a treatment that re-balances energies. Therefore, it is claimed by TCM-practitioners to be helpful in most human condition. By contrast, most Western acupuncturists follow the principles of conventional medicine and would employ acupuncture only for specific conditions. Yet both types of practitioners might advocate acupuncture for a wide range of conditions and symptoms. Treatment-induced leukopenia (reduced number of white blood cells) is one condition for which acupuncture treatment has been suggested. The evidence for the effectiveness of acupuncture for this indication is, however, very limited. The existing studies are mostly published in Chinese and thus difficult to access; more importantly, they are all of poor methodological quality.

Mild adverse effects, e.g. pain or bleeding at the site of acupuncture can be expected in about 10% of all cases, and serious complications, such as pneumothorax and hepatitis, seem to be very rare.

Read about the regulation, supervision and reimbursement of acupuncture at NAFKAMs website CAM Regulation.

Citation

Karen Pilkington, Edzard Ernst, CAM-Cancer Consortium. Acupuncture for treatment-induced leukopenia [online document]. http://www.cam-cancer.org/The-Summaries/Mind-body-interventions/Acupuncture-for-treatment-induced-leukopenia. July 16, 2015.

Document history

Revised in July 2015 by Karen Pilkington.
Summary first published in April 2013, authored by Edzard Ernst.

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