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31-01-2010 | Oncology | Article

Acupuncture shows promise for vasomotor symptoms in breast cancer


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MedWire News: Acupuncture is as effective as venlafaxine in decreasing the number of hot flashes in women treated with hormone therapy for breast cancer, US researchers report.

“Vasomotor symptoms are common adverse effects of antiestrogen hormone treatment in conventional breast cancer care,” say Eleanor Walker (Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit, Michigan) and colleagues.

“Venlafaxine, the therapy of choice for these symptoms, has numerous adverse effects,” explain the authors.

In their study of 50 women with breast cancer, Walker and team investigated whether acupuncture, which has been shown to reduce vasomotor symptoms in menopausal women, can reduce hormone therapy-related symptoms with fewer adverse effects than venlafaxine.

The patients, aged a median of 55 years, were randomly assigned to receive 12 weeks of acupuncture (n=25) or venlafaxine (n=25) treatment and were observed for 1 year post-treatment.

The researchers report that as a result of treatment both groups exhibited significant decreases in hot flashes (50% in both groups), depressive symptoms, and other quality-of-life symptoms, including significant improvements in mental health. These changes were similar in both groups, indicating that acupuncture was as effective as venlafaxine.

By 2 weeks post-treatment, the venlafaxine group experienced significant increases in hot flashes, whereas hot flashes in the acupuncture group remained at low levels for at least 3 months.

Of note, the venlafaxine group experienced 18 incidences of adverse effects including, nausea, dry mouth, dizziness, and anxiety, whereas the acupuncture group experienced no negative adverse effects.

Acupuncture had the additional benefit of increased sex drive in some women, and most reported an improvement in their energy, clarity of thought, and sense of well-being.

“Acupuncture appears to be equivalent to drug therapy in these patients. It is a safe, effective, and durable treatment for vasomotor symptoms secondary to long-term antiestrogen hormone use in patients with breast cancer,” conclude Walker et al in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

“Given the results of this small, randomized study, we feel that integrative therapies have a role in improving the quality of life of cancer patients and should be explored further as an option for treatment of cancer-related adverse effects,” they add.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Laura Dean

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