Does traditional Chinese medicine work or not? We could be about to find out…

Does traditional Chinese medicine work or not? We could be about to find out…

I’m excited to be involved in a research project being run by the department of Traditional Chinese Medicine at the University of Western Sydney. The researchers are looking for evidence that acupuncture and Chinese herbs could help prevent or manage the side-effects of conventional breast cancer therapies. My role is ‘consumer representative’ as part of the Breast Cancer Network of Australia’s ‘Seat at the Table’ program.

So you can see why this article about other acupuncture research caught my eye.

It interests me for four reasons.

1. It appears that acupuncture did improve patient-reported outcomes.

2. Pretending to do acupuncture had exactly the same effect.

3. The findings are based on a very small sample of just 23 women who hadreal acupuncture, 24 who had the sham treatment.

4. Two of the authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

All in all, I don’t think it inspires a lot of confidence.

The project I’m involved in will be looking at what’s happening in China, where traditional and so-called conventional approaches are routinely integrated – they run side-by-side in hospitals there. That means the researchers have a massive amount of data and experience to draw on, so the findings should be a lot more meaningful, as well as impartial.

When you have breast cancer, or any other life-threatening or chronic disease, it’s only natural to want to consider all available options. The problem is that good, clear, evidence-based information about anything other than conventional treatments is very difficult, if not impossible, to find.

Hopefully, this project will be an important step forward.  I’m really looking forward to seeing where it leads.