December 16, 2016

Improving Access to Acupuncture as a Component of Integrative Oncology Care: A Pilot Model for Healthcare Delivery

Below is a research paper composed as a summary of the information gathered by the listed practitioners on how access to acupuncture as a component of integrative oncology care can be provided. Please take a moment to read through it and observe the accompanying info graphic.

Info Graphic


Acupuncture is utilized increasingly as a component of care for individuals undergoing cancer treatment.

Although it is available at some centers as an adjunct, services are often offered off-site and usually with

additional patient charge. The bias of patient access blurs assessment of the true role of acupuncture as

a component of cancer healthcare. We began a pilot integrative oncology program in June 2012 at this

freestanding radiotherapy clinic. Our goal is to make acupuncture available to all patients. We offered

weekly acupuncture with no additional charge to all patients at this clinic; acupuncture treatment occurs

in a designated room within the clinic. In the first eight months, approximately one-third of the

radiotherapy patients treated (n=121) sought supportive acupuncture treatment. Forty-two patients

received 181 acupuncture treatments; average= 4.3, median= 4. All but two patients were acupuncture

naïve. The diagnoses reflect our patient distribution: breast (n=27), prostate (n=5), head/neck (n=5),

small cell lung cancer (n=2), palliation for bone metastases (breast; n=3). The most common diagnosis related complaints were pain, fatigue, hot flashes, and radiation dermatitis; almost all reported

depression, many with concurrent anxiety. In addition, the majority of patients had pre-existing

conditions that they hoped acupuncture would help. Throughout their radiation treatment ninety-five

percent returned weekly because of symptom reduction and satisfaction with treatment results. After

six months of patient accrual, we developed a survey tool that we mailed to patients who had

completed treatment. The goal was to better ascertain patient assessment of their presenting

symptoms, response to acupuncture treatment, and the impact of weekly acupuncture on their overall

cancer treatment experience. We mailed thirty-five surveys mid-January 2013, and by mid-February,

received ten responses (29%). Eight of the ten responded that acupuncture was “very important” in

their care. Ninety-five percent of this group of forty-two patients had little or no knowledge of

acupuncture; ninety-five percent of those returned for weekly treatments. Our preliminary experience

and the early survey results demonstrate that acupuncture is well accepted, efficacious, and important

in the care of patients undergoing radiotherapy. Future direction of the program includes three

components: 1) further improve access to care by adding a formal educational meeting with the

acupuncturist as part of their initial orientation to the facility, 2) develop a new survey tool for all

patients to assess their initial symptoms, their symptoms at the end of radiotherapy, and factors

influencing their choice of inclusion or exclusion of acupuncture in their care, 3) personally proffer our

current survey tool to acupuncture patients at the time of completion of treatment to improve the

response rate and further document the therapeutic value of acupuncture in this patient population.

Principal Author

Laura C. Bowman, M.D.

Metro Acupuncture

6255 Barfield Rd, #175

Atlanta, GA 30328



Tracy McElveen, M.D.

Radiotherapy Clinics of Georgia, Snellville

1770 Presidential Circle

Snellville, GA 30078


Leigh McClelland, L.Ac.

Mark Lewinter, L.Ac.

Anna C. Kelly, M.D.

Metro Acupuncture

6255 Barfield Rd, #175

Atlanta, GA 30328