Italian researchers found that acupuncture can greatly alleviate hot flashes in breast cancer patients that are unable to undergo traditional hormone therapy.
Dr. Giorgia Razzini, senior researcher involved in the study and oncologist at Ospedale di Carpi in Italy, said that acupuncture paired with self-care for at least 90 days can greatly ease hot flashes associated with the condition. Plus, the technique has no serious side-effects and is well tolerated by most patients.
The findings could bring new hope to breast cancer patients that are not eligible for hormone replacement therapy. Usually, these patients are left to few or no options for their hot flashes, which are more severe and persistent in women diagnosed with breast cancer.
In the study, researchers asked 190 volunteers with breast cancer to participate in 10 sessions of Chinese acupuncture over three months. One group of participants opted for acupuncture and self-care instructions, while a second group were given only the instructions.
By the end of the trial, hot flashes in women that received acupuncture were less severe and frequent than in the control group. The acupuncture group scored just 11 hot flashes on average, while the other group hit 23.
The improvement remained constant up to six months following the treatment. Patients who received acupuncture also reported a superior quality of life to those of women in the control group.
The only drawbacks of the new approach were mild muscle pain and headache, but fortunately no severe side-effects were reported.
Razzini’s team, however, recommends clinicians not to couple antidepressants with acupuncture when treating their patients’ hot flashes. Antidepressants are often used to ease hot flashes, but in the latest trial they were prohibited.
Dr. Jun Mao of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer’s Integrative Medicine Service, who was not involved in the new research, noted that the study results are ‘very promising.’ The new approach is more effective than traditional care in improving symptoms and patients’ quality of life.
Mao acknowledged that neither science nor the new study can tell why exactly acupuncture works. He suggested that the improvement seen in breast cancer patients may be due to the procedure itself and enhanced self-care.
He is positive that the procedure may soon be introduced in more and more U.S. health care facilities to ease hot flashes, but he’s not sure whether insurers may want to cover it.
Image Source: Flickr