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Acupuncture Shown to Aid Those Undergoing Breast Cancer Treatment

Posted: January 19, 2010

New research reveals that women undergoing treatment for breast cancer can ease symptoms such as hot flashes with acupuncture treatment.

Acupuncture is just as good as standard medication to ease hot flashes and other uncomfortable symptoms in women undergoing breast cancer treatment. And as an added bonus, the needle treatment may boost the patient's sex drive and contribute to clearer thinking.

"I think the data shows you that acupuncture is a good option for these patients [and] it has no side effects," added Dr. Eleanor Walker, division director of breast services in the department of radiation oncology at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, and lead author of a study appearing online Dec. 28 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

But another expert warned against taking the findings too seriously at this stage. "It's provocative but the problem is it's a small number of patients and, having participated in research trials in vasomotor [hot flashes, night sweats, etc.] symptoms in women, it's a field that has a large placebo effect," said Dr. Jay Brooks, chairman of hematology/oncology at Ochsner Health System in Baton Rouge. "It needs to have a bigger trial."

Prior studies have shown that acupuncture can reduce hot flashes in postmenopausal women without breast cancer. All of these studies, however, compared acupuncture to sham acupuncture, not to commonly used drugs, Walker noted. This is the first randomized controlled study to compare acupuncture alongside medication.