Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been widely used as a complementary medical treatment for arthralgia and other types of pain. The available literature on the effectiveness of TCM on breast cancer patients with musculoskeletal symptoms reports controversial results.
The objective of this review is to assess the effectiveness of TCM as a treatment option for musculoskeletal symptoms in patients with breast cancer who were treated with aromatase inhibitors (AIs).
A comprehensive literature search was conducted using PubMed, the Cochrane Library, SAGE journals, Scopus, EMBASE, Web of Science, Medline, Cumulated Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), Chinese Biomedical Literature Database (CBM), Chinese National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI), Chinese Scientific Journal Database (VIP), Wanfang, and Chinese Medical Journal Database (CMJ) from May 2020 to November 2020. The literature review included randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of TCM for AI-related musculoskeletal symptoms.
Four RCTs incorporating TCM were assessed by meta-analysis and reported favorable effects in reducing worst pain score (n = 284, mean difference [MD]: 2.31; 95% CI, 1.74 to 2.88; P < 0.00001). Three trials showed favorable effects of TCM in reducing pain interference (n = 211, MD: 2.62; 95% CI, 1.29 to 3.94; P = 0.0001), while two trials reported no significant effects of TCM on stiffness (n = 147, MD: 1.21; 95% CI, −0.39 to 2.82; P = 0.14). The meta-analysis of three trials also found no significant effect of TCM on bone mineral density (n = 214, MD, −0.01; 95% CI, −0.07 to 0.05; P = 0.71). The physical aspect of quality of life was significantly increased in breast cancer patients after TCM treatment (n = 220, MD, 5.13; 95% CI, 2.04 to 8.22; P = 0.001). In addition, three RCTs reported minimal TCM-related adverse events.
The results suggest that TCM could be an effective treatment in relieving pain especially worst pain and pain interference as well as improving quality of life caused by AI-related musculoskeletal symptoms. However, further investigation of the molecular pathway involved and in-depth safety profile are needed.
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Published online: December 02, 2020
Accepted: November 20, 2020
© 2020 American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.