A total of 49 studies (n=3,992 patients) were included in the review. Thirty-five studies were RCTs, although all but one was considered to be of inferior methodological quality.
Sixteen studies reported that Chinese herbs helped prevent or alleviate the side effects of conventional therapies. One study reported that shenmai injection reduced time to healing after operation. Another study concluded that Chinese herbs accelerated wound healing and decreased pain.
Four studies reported some form of symptom improvement (e.g. nausea, diarrhoea), although not in all the symptoms examined. One study explicitly reported no difference in symptoms measured and another reported no difference in pain. Ten studies reported an improvement in quality of life, one reported no effect, and one reported worsening of psychosocial indicators.
Eleven studies reported some tumour inhibitory effect of Chinese herbs in stage I and II cancers. Three studies reported lower incidence of relapse.
Twelve studies reported significant improvement in survival rates, and one study reported a non-significant improvement.
None of the studies reported on the side-effects of Chinese herbs.