Xerostomia, or severe dry mouth, is characterized by reduced salivary flow, which commonly affects patients receiving radiotherapy for head and neck cancer.
The condition impairs quality of life for patients, as it creates difficulties eating, speaking and sleeping, while also increasing the risk for oral infections.
Most current treatments are palliative and offer limited benefit.
Now research from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and Fudan University Shanghai Cancer Center has shown for the first time that acupuncture, when given alongside radiation therapy for head and neck cancer reduce the debilitating side effect of xerostomia.
The medical implications are quite profound in terms of quality of life, because while chronic dry mouth may sound benign, it has a significant impact on sleeping, eating and speaking, according to Lorenzo Cohen, Ph.D., professor in MD Anderson's Departments of General Oncology and Behavioral Science and director of the Integrative Medicine Program. "Without saliva, there can be an increase in microbial growth, possible bone infection and irreversible nutritional deficits."
Additional studies are needed to determine the mechanisms for the benefits of acupuncture, and while the study didn't examine this issue, Cohen said it may have an impact on local blood flux, specifically at the parotid gland.
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The above story is extracted by The Zestfulness Team from materials in the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center news release of November 10, 2011
The article has been published by the American Cancer Society: Zhiqiang Meng, M. Kay Garcia, Chaosu Hu, Joseph Chiang, Mark Chambers, David I. Rosenthal, Huiting Peng, Ying Zhang, Qi Zhao, Genming Zhao, Luming Liu, Amy Spelman, J. Lynn Palmer, Qi Wei, Lorenzo Cohen. Randomized controlled trial of acupuncture for prevention of radiation-induced xerostomia among patients with nasopharyngeal carcinoma. Cancer, 2011; DOI: 10.1002/cncr.26550