Acupuncture for the treatment of paraneoplastic night sweats.


Session type:

Visweswaran Ramasamy1
1John Taylor hospice



Night sweats can be a troublesome symptom to manage in patients with advanced malignancy. When the cause is paraneoplastic, treatment can be particularly difficult. Night sweats can impact on cancer patient’s sleep and reduce their quality of life. Pharmacological treatment to night sweats to date have been largely ineffective.


A 56 year old gentleman with advanced pancreatic cancer had been suffering from night sweats secondary to paraneoplastic phenomenon. He tried conventional measures and pharmacological intervention with no improvement and was not on any other medications to treat sweating. Acupuncture treatment was carried out once a week for 10 weeks at the hospice. Duration of the treatment was 30 mins, and the needles were left in situ and stimulated manually every 10 mins during each session. Visual Analogue Scale (VAS) used to measure the treatment outcome.


The intensity and frequency of sweating had reduced by more than 50% after four sessions of treatment. By the end of 10 weeks of treatment, sweating was well under control, and the treatment effect was maintained 8 weeks post treatment. In addition to improvement in sweating, the patient reported an improvement in sleep, mood, anxiety level, and overall well-being. The patient’s severity of the symptom had reduced from 9/10 to 1/10 on visual analogue scale at the end of treatment. 


Despite the fact that acupuncture treatment demonstrated a significant improvement in subject's symptom the exact mechanism of acupuncture in paraneoplastic night sweating is not yet fully understood. A course of acupuncture treatment appears to be effective in reducing paraneoplastic night sweats in patient with advanced pancreatic cancer. Therefore it would be appropriate to consider acupuncture in managing night sweats. Further research on paraneoplastic night sweats would be useful to strengthen the evidence.