Date Published: 24 September 2008

Some breast cancer patients might benefit from acupuncture

Acupuncture might help to reduce some unpleasant side-effects of breast cancer treatment as effectively as conventional drug therapy, new research suggests.

Scientists at the Henry Ford Hospital Department of Radiation Oncology in Detroit found that acupuncture is as effective at managing the hot flushes, night sweats and excessive sweating that often accompany breast cancer treatment as conventional drugs, and the effects can often be longer-lasting.

Lead author Dr Eleanor Walker, a radiation oncologist at the Henry Ford Hospital, commented:

"Our study shows that physicians and patients have an additional therapy for something that affects the majority of breast cancer survivors and actually has benefits, as opposed to more side-effects.

The effect is more durable than a drug commonly used to treat these vasomotor symptoms and, ultimately, is more cost-effective."

The study, which was presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology, compared acupuncture treatment with venlafaxine (effexor), an antidepressant which is commonly used to treat treatment-related hot flushes but that carries its own set of side-effects, including insomnia, dizziness and nausea.

The treatments were tested for 12 weeks in 47 patients who were receiving either Tamoxifen or Arimidex (Anastrozole) for breast cancer and were experiencing at least 14 hot flushes per week.

Researchers found that acupuncture was as effective as venlafaxine at reducing women's hot flushes, and that it did not cause any unwanted side-effects.

In addition, acupuncture created a sense of wellbeing, boosted patients' energy levels and, in some case, increased their libido.

Source(s): Cancer Reseach UK.

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