Electroacupuncture Decreases Hot Flashes in Breast Cancer Survivors

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Yaneff_050915Hot flashes are common amongst breast cancer survivors.

In a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, researchers found that acupuncture treatment could be effective in women who experience hot flashes from estrogen-targeting therapies in breast cancer treatment.

Hot flashes produce symptoms such as sweating, flushing, feeling hot, a racing heartbeat, and reduced estrogen levels. Current hot flash treatments, like hormone replacement therapy, are not available for breast cancer survivors since they contain estrogen.

“Though most people associate hot flashes with menopause, the episodes also affect many breast cancer survivors who have low estrogen levels and often undergo premature menopause, following treatment with chemotherapy or surgery,” explained lead author Jun J. Mao.

For the study, researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania observed 120 breast cancer survivors who reported experiencing multiple hot flashes on a daily basis. Participants were randomly placed into four different groups that examined the efficacy of a type of acupuncture called electroacupuncture for reducing hot flashes. Electroacupuncture uses embedded needles to deliver weak electrical currents.

The eight-week study compared electroacupuncture to the epilepsy drug “gabapentin,” which had previously been found to decrease hot flashes in breast cancer patients. The participants received 900 milligrams (mg) of gabapentin daily, a gabapentin placebo daily, a “sham” electroacupuncture that didn’t involve electrical currents, or electroacupuncture (twice weekly over a period of two weeks, then one weekly session for each of the remaining six weeks of the trial).

Participants in the electroacupuncture group showed greater improvement from hot flash severity and frequency after eight weeks of treatment than the other groups, using standard testing called the hot flash composite score (HFCS). Also, 16 weeks after the treatment, the electroacupuncture and “sham” electroacupuncture groups continued to enjoy a reduction of hot flashes.

Sources for Today’s Article:

Mao, J.J., et al., “Electroacupuncture Versus Gabapentin for Hot Flashes Among Breast Cancer Survivors: A Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial,” Journal of Clinical Oncology 2015, doi: 10.1200/JCO.2015.60.9412.
“Acupuncture reduces hot flashes in breast cancer survivors,” ScienceDaily web site, September 3, 2015;http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/09/150903131549.htm.