Objectives: Since pre-existing expectations, that is, beliefs, in a treatment may modify outcomes, and acupuncture studies often fail to measure expectations, we wanted to investigate the use of acupuncture, interest, and belief in acupuncture effects among patients undergoing cancer therapy.
Method: A cross-sectional design, where the participants answered a study-specific questionnaire with questions regarding their use of, interest and belief in acupuncture treatment.
Results: A total of 457 patients with cancer (48% men, mean age 65 years) answered the questionnaire. Acupuncture was used by 4 (1%) patients during their cancer therapy, and 368 (83%) expressed an interest in receiving acupuncture.
Of the 457 patients, 289 (63%) believed acupuncture to be effective for at least 1 of 17 requested symptoms, most commonly pain (56% of the patients) and muscle tension (40%). They believed acupuncture to be effective for a mean value 3 of the 17 requested symptoms. Women (P < .001), and patients 41 to 65 years (P < .001), expressed a stronger belief in acupuncture effects than others.
Conclusions: Men and older patients expressed weaker beliefs in acupuncture effects than other patients, indicating the importance of collecting expectancy data in future randomized sham-controlled acupuncture studies to be able to treat expectancy as an effect-modifier.
The high interest and beliefs in acupuncture effects found also indicate that acupuncture should be available for patients with cancer, for side effects where acupuncture has shown to be effective. In a clinical setting, older men might need more encouragement regarding positive expected outcomes of the acupuncture treatment than younger women.