Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is primarily used for pain, but might be useful for various other physical symptoms, including nausea, fatigue, dyspnea, and constipation. However, few studies have used TENS for treating the physical symptoms of patients with advanced cancer. In this crossover trial, we assess the effects of TENS on pain and other physical symptoms in 20 in-patients with advanced cancer receiving palliative care. For 5-day phases between wash out periods of 5 days, patients received TENS or non-TENS. TENS was delivered at four points: the center of the back for mainly nausea and dyspnea, on the back at the same dermatomal level as the origin of the pain (100 Hz), and on both ankle joints for constipation (10 Hz). The intensity of pain and the total opioid dose used during phases were recorded. Physical symptoms were evaluated using the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) Quality of Life Questionnaire Core 15 Palliative Care (QLQ-C15-PAL). Hematological and biochemical data were recorded before and after the TENS phase. The average pain and total number of opioid rescue doses were significantly reduced by TENS. TENS tended to improve nausea and appetite loss, but not constipation. There were no effects on hematological and biochemical parameters. Use of TENS could safely improve pain, nausea, and appetite loss in patients with advanced cancer. Although it cannot be used as a substitute for opioids and other pharmaceutical treatment, it may be useful to support palliative care.
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