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Reducing Hot Flashes in Breast Cancer Patients with Acupuncture

Posted Jan 04 2010 12:00am
The majority of breast cancers are estrogen receptor - positive breast cancers and women with this type of breast cancer generally receive anti-estrogen hormone treatment.  Unfortunately, this breast cancer treatment is frequently accompanied by side effects like hot flashes and night sweats.  Since hormone replacement therapy for hot flashes can't be used in women with estrogen receptor - positive breast cancer, other treatments are necessary to overcome the breast cancer treatment side effects. 

A new study compared the most common drug treatment (venlafaxine) for hot flashes in breast cancer patients with acupuncture.  For this study, 25 breast cancer patients were treated with venlafaxine every day for 12 weeks, while another 25 breast cancer patients were treated with acupuncture twice weekly for 4 weeks and once weekly for another 8 weeks.  The breast cancer patients were followed for up to 1 year after treatment.  The results of this study showed that:
  • Similar decreases in hot flashes and symptoms of depression were observed in breast cancer patients receiving venlafaxine and acupuncture treatment.
  • Both acupuncture and venlafaxine improved mental health and overall quality of life.
  • Side effects (nausea, anxiety, dizziness) were reported in breast cancer patients receiving venlafaxine, but acupuncture-treated patients reported no side effects.
  • Acupuncture-treated patients also reported improvements is energy, clarity of thought, and overall well being.
  • Hot flashes increased within 2 weeks after stopping drug treatment, while acupuncture-treated patients continued to have only minimal hot flashes after treatment ended.
This is interesting breast cancer research that supports earlier studies on the potential benefits of acupuncture for breast cancer patients suffering from menopausal symptoms.  Not only was the use of acupuncture just as beneficial as the drug therapy in this study, the benefits of the acupuncture lasted longer and had no negative side effects.  One of the unfortunate aspects of many breast cancer treatments is that they come with their own set of unpleasant side effects and these side effects are often treated with drugs that have their own set of side effects.  This can lead to a decrease in the quality of life of breast cancer survivors.  Fortunately, research like this new study continues to find alternatives that might work for some breast cancer patients.  To read more about this study, you can read the press release from the Henry Ford Hospital, the site of the study.  You can also learn more about the potential benefits and risks of acupuncture for breast cancer survivors at BreastCancer.org

To find out more about lifestyle choices you can make to help reduce your personal breast cancer risk, read my book Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Cancer at www.fightBCnow.com.
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