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Guidelines for providing acupuncture treatment for cancer patients – a peer-reviewed sample policy document
  1. Jacqueline Filshie, consultant in anaesthesia and pain management1,
  2. Joan Hester, consultant in pain medicine2
  1. 1
    Royal Marsden Hospital, London and Surrey, UK
  2. 2
    Pain Relief Unit, Kings College Hospital, London, UK
  1. Jacqueline.filshie{at}


Clinical guidelines are statements that have been systematically developed and which aim to assist clinicians in making decisions about treatment for specific conditions, and promote best practice. They are linked to evidence and are meant to facilitate good medical practice. We are not aware of any guidelines for the safe practice of acupuncture in a conventional healthcare setting, yet they are necessary as acupuncture may be performed in a variety of settings and by a variety of healthcare professionals: doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, midwives, and non medically trained practitioners. These guidelines were developed for use in cancer patients, mainly for pain but also for some non-pain indications such as hot flushes. They are presented here as a template for other acupuncturists who are requested to provide policies for acupuncture treatment for cancer patients.

This article includes a general review of the evidence on mechanisms, effectiveness and safety of acupuncture that is intended to be used in conjunction with the guidelines; and the guidelines themselves. An appendix includes instructions for self acupuncture. The guidelines contain sections on roles and responsibilities, criteria for acupuncture practice, indications for acupuncture, contraindications and cautions, acupuncture treatment, and review and audit. These guidelines set basic, minimum standards of care, and need reassessment and ongoing validation as further data and evidence accumulate.

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