To determine the efficacy of acupuncture on the management of hormone therapy-related side effects in breast cancer patients. Randomized controlled trials of acupuncture versus a control or placebo in breast cancer patients that examined reductions in therapy-related side effects were retrieved from PubMed, EMBASE, Web of Science, and the Cochrane Library through April 2020. Data on patient symptoms (hot flashes, fatigue, pain, stiffness, and gastrointestinal symptoms), physical capacity, cytokines, and general psychosomatic well-being were analyzed. We evaluated and analyzed the quality of all included studies with the 5.2 Cochrane Handbook standards using Stata software (version 10.0) and Revman software (version 5.2), respectively. We assessed the risk of bias using the Cochrane Risk of Bias tool and evaluated the quality of evidence using the GRADE (Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development, and Evaluations) approach. The pooled results suggested that acupuncture led to moderate improvements in hot flashes, fatigue, and stiffness. No significant differences were observed in pain, gastrointestinal symptoms, Kupperman index scores, Overall quality of life, tumor necrosis factor levels, and interleukin levels. Evidence for outcome indicators of symptom management were downgraded by the GRADE system for inconsistency, indirectness, and imprecision in the included RCTs. Nonetheless, acupuncture is a moderately appropriate alternative therapy for hormone therapy-related side effects in breast cancer patients. However, it still lacks large-sample, multicenter, prospective RCTs. Future research should focus on standardizing comparison groups and treatment methods, be at least single-blinded, assess biologic mechanisms, have adequate statistical power, and involve multiple acupuncturists.

References

PubMed