Acupuncture not only cools hot flashes that occur as a
result of breast cancer treatment but may offer a host of other benefits to
boost women's well-being.
A new study shows acupuncture was as good as drug therapy with Effexor
(venlafaxine) at easing hot flashes in breast cancer patients, but it also
improved sex drive, energy levels, and clarity of thought.
"Acupuncture offers patients a safe, effective and durable treatment option
for hot flashes, something that affects the majority of breast cancer
survivors. Compared to drug therapy, acupuncture actually has benefits, as
opposed to more side effects," researcher Eleanor Walker, MD, division director
of breast services in the department of radiation oncology at Henry Ford
Hospital in Detroit, says in a news release.
According to the National Cancer Institute, one in eight women will develop
breast cancer in her lifetime. Typical treatment for breast cancer involves
chemotherapy and five years of hormone therapy that often causes unpleasant
side effects, such as hot flashes, night sweats, and decreased sex drive and
Researchers say these side effects of breast cancer treatment significantly
decrease a woman's quality of life and may cause some women to discontinue
Acupuncture has already been shown to reduce hot flashes in menopausal
women, but researchers say this is the first study to compare acupuncture to
drug treatment in easing hot flashes in breast cancer patients. The results
appear in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
Fifty breast cancer patients were randomly assigned to receive either
acupuncture or drug treatment for 12 weeks. The acupuncture group received
acupuncture treatments twice per week for the first four weeks and then once a
week for the remaining eight weeks; the drug group received 37.5 milligrams of
Effexor each night for the first week and then 75 milligrams per night for the
remaining 11 weeks.
All participants stopped their treatment after 12 weeks and kept a diary to
record the number and severity of hot flashes; they were surveyed about their
overall physical and mental health for one year.
Both groups experienced a 50% decline in hot flashes and symptoms of
depression, but the acupuncture treatment appeared to have more lasting effects
with fewer side effects.
For example, two weeks after the treatments stopped, the drug therapy group
experienced an increase in hot flashes; the acupuncture group did not
experience any increase in the frequency of their hot flashes until three
months after treatment.
In addition, the Effexor group reported 18 instances of negative side
effects, including nausea, dry mouth, dizziness, and anxiety, compared with no
adverse side effects reported among the acupuncture group.
Most breast cancer patients treated with acupuncture also reported an
improvement in their energy, clarity of thought, and sense of well-being. About
25% of women in the acupuncture group also reported an increase in their sex
By Jennifer Warner
Reviewed by Louise Chang
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