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November 2015



Women with breast cancer may experience symptoms of depression, anxiety, pain, fatigue and sleep disturbances during chemotherapy. However, there are few modalities that address multiple, commonly occurring symptoms that may occur in individuals receiving cancer treatment. Cranial electrical stimulation (CES) is a treatment that is FDA cleared for depression, anxiety and insomnia. CES is applied via electrodes placed on the ear that deliver pulsed, low amplitude electrical current to the head.


This phase III randomized, sham-controlled study aimed to examine the effects of cranial microcurrent stimulation on symptoms of depression, anxiety, pain, fatigue, and sleep disturbances in women receiving chemotherapy for early-stage breast cancer. Patients were randomly assigned to either an actual or sham device and used the device daily for 1 h. The study was registered at, NCT00902330.


The sample included N = 167 women with early-stage breast cancer. Symptom severity of depression, anxiety, and fatigue and sleep disturbances were generally mild to moderate. Levels of pain were low. Anxiety was highest prior to the initial chemotherapy and decreased over time. The primary outcome assessment (symptoms of depression, anxiety, fatigue, pain, sleep disturbances) revealed no statistically significant differences between the two groups, actual CES vs. sham.


In this study, women receiving chemotherapy for breast cancer experienced multiple symptoms in the mild to moderate range. Although there is no evidence for the routine use of CES during the chemotherapy period for symptom management in women with breast cancer, further symptom management modalities should be evaluated to mitigate symptoms of depression, anxiety, fatigue, pain and sleep disturbances over the course of chemotherapy.


Copyright © Lyon et al. 2015 Open Access. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

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