Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, effecting 1 in 8 women in the US. It is the second leading cause of death for women- but with early detection and treatment prognosis is typically good. Treatment is difficult to cope with for many women – acupuncture is cited by numerous reputable sources as an effective management tool for chemotherapy side-effects including the National Institute of Health and the World Health Organization.
New research now offers hope that acupuncture may also effective treatment for hot flashes caused by breast cancer anti-estrogen treatment.
The research was done in Korea with a small group of women who were using tamoxifen or anastrozole treatment for breast cancer and experienced hot flashes as a side effect. The research was observational in nature, and not placebo controlled. Yet, these smaller studies have value in providing pilot data needed to fund larger clinical trials.
Abstract (Jeong et al., 2013)
“Objectives: Antiestrogen therapy can cause vasomotor symptoms similar to those occurring during menopause, including hot ﬂashes. Recent studies suggest that acupuncture is effective in reducing vasomotor symptoms in patients with breast cancer receiving tamoxifen. The purpose of this study was to assess the feasibility and safety of acupuncture for treatment of hot ﬂashes in Korean patients with breast cancer receiving antiestrogen therapy.
Design: This was a prospective single-arm observational study using before and after measurements.
Settings/location: The study was located at the East–West Medical Center at Daegu Catholic University Medical Center, Daegu, Korea.
Subjects: The subjects were 10 patients with breast cancer who were undergoing antiestrogen therapy with tamoxifen or anastrozole and who were suffering from hot ﬂashes.
Interventions: Acupuncture was administered 3 times a week for 4 consecutive weeks, for 20–5 minutes at each session.
Outcome measures: The outcome measure was severity of hot ﬂashes assessed by visual analogue scale (VAS) and total hot ﬂash score.
Results: During treatment, severity of hot ﬂashes was reduced by 70%–95% in all patients. Acupuncture signiﬁcantly alleviated severity of hot ﬂashes assessed by a visual analogue scale (F=30.261; p<0.001) as well as the total hot ﬂash score (F=21.698; p=0.006). Four (4) weeks after the ﬁnal treatment, symptoms were not aggravated.
Conclusions: Acupuncture appeared to provide effective relief from hot ﬂashes among Korean women receiving antiestrogen therapy after surgery for breast cancer, and the effects lasted for at least 1 month after termination of treatment. A randomized controlled prospective study with a larger sample size is require to clarify the role of acupuncture in the management of hot ﬂashes in Korean patients with breast cancer.”
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Reference: Jeong, Young Ju, Young Sun Park, Hyo Jung Kwon, Im Hee Shin, Jin Gu Bong, and Sung Hwan Park (2013). Acupuncture for the Treatment of Hot Flashes in Patients with Breast Cancer Receiving Antiestrogen Therapy: A Pilot Study in Korean Women. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. Vol. 19, 8, pp. 690-696.
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