"Women with breast cancer should know that acupuncture together with
enhanced self care for at least three months can improve hot flashes
with an overall benefit on their quality of life," said study author
Giorgia Razzini of Civil Hospital in Carpi. "This approach is safe
and feasible as well."
Hot flashes are more severe and last longer in women with breast
cancer, the researchers write in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
Breast cancer patients who can't take hormone replacement therapy
for hot flashes are left with few options.
Between 2010 and 2013, the researchers randomly assigned 190 women
with breast cancer to receive 10 traditional Chinese acupuncture
sessions over 12 weeks, plus an informational booklet about
enhancing self-care, or just the self-care booklet alone.
Half the women were over age 49.
By the end of the treatments, hot flash scores - the frequency of
hot flashes multiplied by their severity - were significantly lower
among the women in the acupuncture group.
The enhanced self-care group's average hot flash score was about 23
at the end of treatment, compared to about 11 in the acupuncture
group. The difference would be noticeable, Razzini told Reuters
Health in an email.
The difference in hot flash scores between the two groups remained
significant three and six months after treatment, the researchers
Women who received acupuncture also experienced a better quality of
life than those in the enhanced self-care group.
Twelve of the 85 women in acupuncture group reported mild side
effects like muscle pain and headache. No serious side effects were
The researchers advise healthcare providers to be cautious about
recommending acupuncture if they have already prescribed
antidepressants for hot flashes.
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Antidepressants "have been demonstrated to be effective in managing
hot flashes and in our trial they were not allowed," said Razzini.
Dr. Jun Mao, who was not involved with the new study, agreed that
it's unclear how acupuncture compares to other types of treatments.
"I think the results are very promising suggesting - compared to
usual care - acupuncture can improve hot flash symptoms and several
areas of quality of life," said Mao, chief of the Integrative
Medicine Service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New
He said the new study can't say why acupuncture improves hot flash
symptoms, but previous research - including his own - suggests that
the benefits may be from the procedure itself and engaging people in
"I think it is gradually being introduced into many cancer centers
in the U.S. for managing hot flashes in women with breast cancer,"
he said. However, he added, insurance may not cover it.
SOURCE: http://bit.ly/1RLnE11 Journal of Clinical Oncology, online
March 28, 2016.
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