A study conducted at seven cancer centres in the UK has shown that acupuncture can relieve the symptoms of xerostomia.1

Doctors recruited 145 patients suffering from radiation-induced xerostomia to a trial comparing acupuncture with education about oral care. Although the researchers found that there were no significant changes in saliva production, patients who had received nine weeks of acupuncture (for 20 minutes every week for eight weeks) were twice as likely to report improved dry mouth than patients receiving oral care. Individual symptoms were also significantly improved among the group receiving acupuncture.

Dr Richard Simcock, consultant clinical oncologist at the Sussex Cancer Centre and one of the authors of the study, said: 'Time had an important effect on key symptoms, with patients receiving acupuncture showing a quick response, which was sustained over several weeks.'

The researchers said that further studies are needed to refine the acupuncture technique and discover how long its effect lasts and whether booster sessions might be required, but they believe it could be easily incorporated into the care of patients with xerostomia.