Skip to Content


When it's hard to swallow

Conquest - Summer 2012

Study shows acupuncture prevents dry mouth

By Lindsey Garner

While a lack of saliva may seem like a minor inconvenience, xerostomia (severe dry mouth) greatly impairs patients’ quality of life.

It creates difficulties for everyday functions, like eating, speaking and sleeping. Without saliva, patients also run the risk of increased bacterial growth, bone infection and nutritional deficiencies.

A recent study shows that acupuncture, when given alongside radiation therapy for head and neck cancer, reduces xerostomia.

The randomized, controlled trial compared acupuncture to standard care among patients with nasopharyngeal carcinoma, a common throat cancer.

“We found incorporating acupuncture alongside radiation therapy diminished the incidence and severity of this side effect,” says the study’s principal investigator Lorenzo Cohen, Ph.D., professor in MD Anderson’s departments of General Oncology and Behavioral Science, and director of the Integrative Medicine Program.

The study was part of a $2.7 million center grant from the National Cancer Institute. Researchers from MD Anderson and its sister institution, Fudan University Shanghai Cancer Center in Shanghai, China, where the study was conducted, contributed to the study.

Additional NCI-supported collaborative research is ongoing, including two large trials, one being conducted in Shanghai and at MD Anderson, and another across multiple centers in the United States.

Reported in the November 2011 edition of Cancer.

Read more Cancer Briefings

Resources: Acupuncture

Care to Comment?

Email the editor to comment on a story or offer suggestions on topics you'd like to see covered in future issues of Conquest and Annual Report.

Make a difference

Your gift to MD Anderson makes a difference in the lives of cancer patients by supporting innovative patient care, research, education and prevention programs. You can Donate Now or learn more at myGiving to MD Anderson.

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center