Xerostomia, also known as severe dry mouth, reduces quality of life in patients undergoing radiotherapy for head and neck cancer. In a new study, researchers at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and Fudan University Shanghai Cancer Center found that acupuncture may provide some relief for these patients.
Authors of the study tested the effects of acupuncture to reduce dry mouth in 40 patients and compared their outcomes to 46 control subjects who received standard medical care. Acupuncture recipients had the treatment three times weekly over the seven-week trial period.
Based on self-reported questionnaires and measurements of saliva flow, the researchers reported fast and significant relief of xerostomia following acupuncture treatment.
"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," said Lorenzo Cohen, Ph.D., professor in MD Anderson's Departments of General Oncology and Behavioral Science.
The researcher noted that low levels of saliva can lead to microbial growth in the mouth, potentially causing bone infection or malnutrition.