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12-07-2016 | Breast cancer | News | Article

Acupressure alleviates breast cancer-associated fatigue

medwireNews: Phase III trial results suggest that self-administered acupressure could help breast cancer survivors to manage persistent fatigue.

In this Michigan-based study, 270 women who were breast cancer-free 12 months after treatment for stage 0–III disease and had persistent fatigue were randomly assigned to 6 weeks of daily self-administered relaxing (n=94) or stimulating acupressure (n=90) or usual care (n=86).

Relaxing acupressure uses pressure points that are used to treat insomnia, the team explains, while stimulating acupressure involves a different set of points that increase energy.

At the end of 6 weeks, the reduction in fatigue, as assessed by the Brief Fatigue Inventory (BFI) score, was significantly greater in both the relaxing and stimulating acupressure groups relative to the usual care group, with average decreases from baseline of 2.6 and 2.0 versus 1.1.

These improvements were maintained during a 4-week intervention-free period, such that at week 10, the mean reduction in BFI scores was 2.3 and 2.0 for the relaxing and stimulating acupressure arms, respectively, compared with 1.0 for the usual care group.

Moreover, significantly more women in the relaxing and stimulating acupressure groups achieved normal fatigue levels (BFI score <4) at week 6 than their counterparts who received usual care, at 66.2% and 60.9% versus 31.3%. And again, the findings were similar at week 10, with corresponding rates of 56.3% and 60.9% versus 30.1%.

The team reports in JAMA Oncology that both acupressure strategies reduced fatigue to a comparable extent, with no significant between-group differences at either timepoint. This finding is in contrast to an earlier pilot study in which relaxing acupressure was more effective, say the researchers who attribute the discrepant results to the mixed cancer population included in the pilot trial.

However, in the current study, relaxing acupressure, but not stimulating acupressure, significantly improved sleep quality at week 6 and quality of life at both timepoints relative to usual care.

Lead author Suzanna Zick (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA) and colleagues note that participants were able to accurately locate the appropriate pressure points and apply the correct amount of pressure after just 15 minutes of training.

In light of the brief training required, they believe that acupressure could be a “low-cost option for treating fatigue”, while relaxing acupressure could also lead to improvements in sleep and quality of life in fatigued breast cancer survivors.

By Shreeya Nanda

medwireNews is an independent medical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2016

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