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Acupuncture eases radiation-induced dry mouth in cancer patients
Date:4/20/2009

HOUSTON -- Twice weekly acupuncture treatments relieve debilitating symptoms of xerostomia - severe dry mouth - among patients treated with radiation for head and neck cancer, researchers from The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center report in the current online issue of Head & Neck.

Xerostomia develops after the salivary glands have been exposed to repeated doses of therapeutic radiation. People who have cancers of the head and neck typically receive large cumulative doses, rendering the salivary glands incapable of producing adequate saliva, said Mark S. Chambers, M.S., D.M.D., a professor in the Department of Dental Oncology. Saliva substitutes, lozenges and chewing gum bring only temporary relief, and the commonly prescribed medication, pilocarpine, has short-lived benefits and bothersome side effects of its own.

"The quality of life in patients with radiation-induced xerostomia is profoundly impaired," said Chambers, the study's senior author. "Symptoms can include altered taste acuity, dental decay, infections of the tissues of the mouth, and difficulty with speaking, eating and swallowing. Conventional treatments have been less than optimal, providing short-term response at best."

M. Kay Garcia, LAc, Dr.P.H., a clinical nurse specialist and acupuncturist in M. D. Anderson's Integrative Medicine Program and the study's first author, noted that patients with xerostomia may also develop nutritional deficits that can become irreversible.

Garcia, Chambers and their team of researchers conducted a pilot study to determine whether acupuncture could reverse xerostomia. Acupuncture therapy is based on the ancient Chinese practice of inserting and manipulating very thin needles at precise points on the body to relieve pain or otherwise restore health. In traditional Chinese medicine, stimulating these points is believed to improve the flow of vital energy through the body. Contemporary theories about acupunctu
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Contact: Laura Sussman
lsussman@mdanderson.org
713-792-0655
University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center
Source:Eurekalert

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