Acupuncture reduces side effects of breast cancer treatment as much as conventional drug therapy


Acupuncture is as effective and longer-lasting in managing the common debilitating side effects of hot flashes, night sweats, and excessive sweating (vasomotor symptoms) associated with breast cancer treatment and has no treatment side effects compared to conventional drug therapy, according to a first-of-its-kind study presented September 24, 2008, at the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology’s 50th Annual Meeting in Boston.

Findings also show there were additional benefits to acupuncture treatment for breast cancer patients, such as an increased sense of well being, more energy, and in some cases, a higher sex drive, that were not experienced in those patients who underwent drug treatment for their hot flashes.

“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 for insurance companies,” Eleanor Walker, M.D., lead author of the study and a radiation oncologist at the Henry Ford Hospital Department of Radiation Oncology in Detroit, said.

The reduction in hot flashes lasted longer for those breast cancer patients after completing their acupuncture treatment, compared to patients after stopping their drug therapy plan.

Eighty percent of women treated for breast cancer suffer from hot flashes after being treated with chemotherapy and/or anti-estrogen hormones, such as Tamoxifen and Arimidex. Although hormone replacement therapy is typically used to relieve these symptoms, breast cancer patients cannot use this therapy because it may increase the risk of the cancer coming back. As a treatment alternative, patients are generally treated with steroids and/or antidepressant drugs. These drugs, however, have additional side effects, such as weight gain, nausea, constipation and fatigue. The antidepressant, venlafaxine (Effexor), a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, is one of the most common drugs used to treat these hot flashes. However, many women decide against this treatment choice because of potential side effects, including decreased libido, insomnia, dizziness and nausea, or because they simply do not want to take any more medications.

The randomized clinical trial compared acupuncture treatment to venlafixine for 12 weeks to find out if acupuncture reduced vasomotor symptoms in breast cancer patients receiving hormonal therapy and produced fewer side effects than venlafaxine. The study involved 47 breast cancer patients who received either Tamoxifen or Arimidex and had at least 14 hot flashes per week. Results show that acupuncture reduces hot flashes as effectively as venlafaxine, with no side effects, and also provides additional health benefits to patients.


Acupuncture reduces side effects of breast cancer treatment as much as conventional drug therapy

6 Responses to Acupuncture reduces side effects of breast cancer treatment as much as conventional drug therapy

  1. bob dylan May 25, 2011 at 3:07 pm #

    i belive it is up to the person to decide wheather the treatment is right for them, even if it is the placebo effect it shouldnt matter, if it makes them belive they feel better than let them think it . there is no harm in thinking your feeling better, its the power in positive thinking.

  2. bob dylan May 25, 2011 at 3:07 pm #

    i belive it is up to the person to decide wheather the treatment is right for them, even if it is the placebo effect it shouldnt matter, if it makes them belive they feel better than let them think it . there is no harm in thinking your feeling better, its the power in positive thinking.

  3. Anonymous September 22, 2008 at 8:00 pm #

    Considering the available data, it is not really fair to publish information about acupuncture without a sham arm. Not to mention this sounds like a poster or conference presentation, so who knows what would happen under peer review. And 47 participants is a pretty small number. Oy vay. Why do I even bother responding to stuff like this? It’s religion, nothing more and nothing less. Believers will believe regardless of the available scientific data. At least acupuncture, in and of itself, is not harmful.

  4. Fred Bortz September 22, 2008 at 9:18 am #

    I recently reviewed a book called Trick or Treatment: The Undeniable Facts About Alternative Medicine which discusses in great detail clinical trials of all kinds of medical treatment. There is no doubt that acupuncture produces beneficial results, but those appear to be, in most cases, a placebo effect.

    Clinical trials have shown that sham acupuncture, in which everything is done as in standard practice except for the depth or exact placement of the needle, appears to produce the same placebo benefits.

    There are a few circumstances in which “the jury is still out,” but as data accumulate, acupuncture generally fails to prove its efficacy beyond the placebo effect.

    I am citing data here from the book, so any arguments need to be made with its authors, not me.

    Click for my blog entry with the book review of Trick or Treatment and Anticancer. I will be publishing a detailed review of Trick or Treatment alone soon.

    Fred Bortz — Science and technology books for young readers (www.fredbortz.com) and Science book reviews (www.scienceshelf.com)

  5. Anonymous September 22, 2008 at 8:04 am #

    If you don’t have something intelligent to say, then perhaps you might just want to stop making yourself look like a fool. Acupuncture isn’t some “sham” practice, it’s a scientifically validated form of medicine.

    What the study shows is that in some circumstances, such as in the case of breast cancer treatment, the normally proscribed drugs are less effective and have more side effects than a non-medicinal procedure. That’s all.

    You could at least have focussed your comments around the incompetence of the pharmaceutical industry for making (according to your views) a completely pointless placebo.

  6. Anonymous September 22, 2008 at 7:30 am #

    …so this study really just shows that the drugs are totally unnecessary (since acupuncture creates no medical effects on its own). In other words, this study shows that a little bit of relaxation and attention is more effective than the drugs. Bravo, but no need to attribute it to acupuncture.

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