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Safety aspects of acupuncture in palliative care
  1. Jacqueline Filshie, consultant in anaesthetics and pain management; honorary senior lecturer
  1. Royal Marsden Hospitals, London & Surrey
  2. Institute of Cancer Research, jacqueline.filshie{at}


    Acupuncture can mask symptoms of cancer and tumour progression. It is not safe to use such a therapy without full knowledge of the clinical stage of the disease, and the current status of orthodox therapy. Contraindications to acupuncture needling include an unstable spine, severe clotting disorder, neutropenia and lymphoedema. Whilst semi-permanent needles are used increasingly in symptom control and pain management they should not be used in patients with valvular heart disease or in vulnerable neutropenic patients. Acupuncture has an increasing role in support for pain and symptom management, but patients should not be advised to abandon conventional treatments in favour of complementary or alternative therapies alone, and should not have their hopes raised inappropriately, or have any guilt projected on to them for the cause of their cancer.

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