Acupuncture and Acupressure May Help Alleviate Pain and Anxiety for Patients Undergoing Surgery for Gynecologic Cancer

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According to a new study published by Ben-Arye et al in Cancer, preoperative acupressure may help patients undergoing surgery for ovarian and endometrial cancers reduce anxiety. In addition, the researchers found that following up acupressure with perioperative acupuncture may reduce severe pain.

Study Methods and Results

In the new randomized, controlled study, the researchers recruited 99 patients with gynecologic cancers and randomly assigned them to three groups. Group A, with 45 patients, received acupressure-related touch and relaxation treatments that began within 3 hours prior to surgery and continued until the patients began undergoing general anesthesia; they then received perioperative acupuncture therapy involving points shown to be effective for reducing pain. Group B, with 25 patients, received preoperative acupressure only; group C, with 29 patients, received standard care. Both before and after surgery, the patients were asked to complete questionnaires that scored the quality of their recovery and included questions about pain, anxiety, and other quality-of-life parameters. 

The researchers found that the postoperative scores were higher among the patients in groups A and B—indicating better recovery—than the scores among patients in group C. Group A scores related to severe pain were significantly higher than group C scores. Both intervention groups had higher scores than the control group in terms of scores related to anxiety and depression. 


“The inclusion of preoperative integrative medical touch and relaxation therapies for anxiety, along with intraoperative acupuncture for pain and other quality of life–related concerns, should be considered for patients undergoing gynecological oncology surgery,” emphasized lead study coauthor Eran Ben-Arye, MD, Assistant Professor as well as Cofounder and Director of the Unit of Complementary and Traditional Medicine in the Department of Family Medicine at The Technion–Israel Institute of Technology, and Director of the Integrative Oncology program at the Haifa and Western Galilee Oncology Service at the Lin Medical Center. “Training in such ‘integrative oncology’ is needed for complementary medicine providers, acupuncturists, surgeons, anesthesiologists, and operating room nurses—who need to work together and communicate with integrative oncology practitioners in the complex operating room setting,” he concluded. 

An accompanying editorial—published in Cancer by Ana Maria Lopez, MD, MPH, MACP, FRCP, Professor and Vice Chair of Medical Oncology at the Sidney Kimmel Medical College as well as Chief of Cancer Services at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital—noted that integrative oncology may be gaining acceptance as a clinical field by Western medicine. Dr. Lopez stressed that although larger studies are needed to confirm the results, the data add to a growing body of literature in support of reimbursement for integrative oncology interventions such as acupuncture.

The study researchers also concluded that further research is also needed to fully understand the impact of perioperative acupuncture on postoperative pain.

Disclosure: For full disclosures of the study authors, visit

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.