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Novel Intervention With Acupuncture for Anorexia and Cachexia in Patients With Gastrointestinal Tract Cancers: A Feasibility Study

Saunjoo L. Yoon

Oliver Grundmann

Joseph J. Williams

Gwen Carriere

acupuncture, unintentional weight loss, anorexia, cachexia, gastrointestinal tract cancers, bioelectrical impedance analysis
ONF 2015, 42(2), E102-E109. DOI: 10.1188/15.ONF.E102-E109

Purpose/Objectives: To investigate the feasibility of using acupuncture as a complementary intervention to existing treatments and to evaluate the efficacy of acupuncture in improving appetite and slowing weight loss with patients with gastrointestinal (GI) tract cancers.

Design: One-group pre- and postintervention feasibility study.

Setting: Outpatient clinic for patients with cancer and a community setting, both in Florida.

Sample: A convenience sample of seven adults with GI cancer.

Methods: Eight acupuncture sessions were provided during eight weeks. Data were collected using the visual analog scale (VAS) for appetite, Simplified Nutritional Appetite Questionnaire (SNAQ), Karnofsky Performance Status, and bioelectrical impedance analysis.

Main Research Variables: Appetite, weight, attrition rate.

Findings: Seven patients with a mean age of 61 years completed the intervention. Acupuncture was well accepted, feasible, and safe without any reported side effects. Appetite showed improvement, with an average score of 3.04 on the VAS and 4.14 on SNAQ compared to the preintervention scores. The average weight loss was 1.32% compared to the baseline during an eight-week period.

Conclusions: The acupuncture intervention was feasible and indicated positive outcomes. Because of the small sample size and lack of a control group, statistical significance of effectiveness was not determined. Acupuncture seemed to improve appetite and slow weight loss in patients with GI cancers, so additional studies with a larger sample size and a variety of cancers are warranted.

Implications for Nursing: Oncology nurses are uniquely able to equip patients with information about complementary therapy modalities, such as acupuncture, which is a promising way to improve appetite and slow weight loss in patients with GI cancers.

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