Acupuncture for Hot Flushes during Breast Cancer Treatment

American researchers have found that acupuncture is just as effective as drugs in preventing hot flushes during breast cancer treatment using long-term oestrogen-antagonist therapy. Moreover, they also found that acupuncture improved both their sex drive and overall sense of well-being.

Fifty patients were randomly assigned to receive twelve weeks of either acupuncture or standard drug treatment (in this case, venlafaxine). Both groups were found to exhibit significant decreases in hot flushes and depressive symptoms, together with improvements in mental health and quality of life. At follow-up two weeks after treatment had ended, the venlafaxine group were experiencing significant increases in hot flushes, whereas those in the acupuncture group remained low. Further, the drug treatment group reported 18 incidences of adverse effects (nausea, dry mouth, dizziness, anxiety), compared with the acupuncture group which reported none. Acupuncture had the additional benefit of increasing sex drive in some women, and most reported improvements in their energy, clarity of thought and general well-being.

The authors conclude that 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 oestrogen-antagonist use.

(Acupuncture versus Venlafaxine for the Management of Vasomotor Symptoms in Patients with Hormone-Receptor Positive Breast Cancer: A Randomised Controlled Trial. Journal of Clinical Oncology Feb 2010.)