A UK group has found acupuncture alone or in combination with morphine to be effective for the relief of breathlessness in lung cancer patients. The investigators randomised 173 patients with lung cancer and dyspnoea to an acupuncture group (A), a morphine group (M) or an acupuncture plus morphine group (AM). Acupuncture was administered at thoracic trigger points (upper sternal, paravertebral and trapezius) and Hegu L.I.-4. Semi-permanent manubrial acupuncture studs were also inserted and massaged when patients were symptomatic. All patients were allowed rescue morphine for breakthrough pain. Dyspnoea scores improved by more than 1.5 on a visual analogue scale in 74%, 60% and 66% of participants in trial arms A, M and AM, respectively, with no statistically significant difference between arms. Morphine alone increased anxiety, while acupuncture caused a significant improvement in relaxation, both alone and in combination with morphine. Acupuncture caused fewer side-effects than morphine, and was morphine sparing – median morphine dose was lower and fewer patients took morphine in arm A than arms M and AM.
A randomised study comparing the effectiveness of acupuncture or morphine versus the combination for the relief of dyspnoea in patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer and mesothelioma. Eur J Cancer. 2016 Jul;61:102-10.