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Acupuncture for Hot Flushes

Acupuncture to treat breast cancer survivors’ hot flushes

New research shows that acupuncture has beaten pills for treating hot flushes in breast cancer survivors. The study was carried out at the University of Pennsylvania by Dr Jun Mao and published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. Dr Mao sampled 120 women who were all breast cancer survivors and all experiencing hot flushes at least twice a day as a side effect of hormone therapy treatment.

The women were split into quarters and 30 people received acupuncture, 30 people an inactive placebo pill, 32 people received sham acupuncture and 28 women received the pill gabapentin, a drug which it typically used to treat seizures and nerve pain. Sham acupuncture is a term used for placebo acupuncture which either needles are not placed into the body or instead placed in random areas of the body which will not receive the desired effect. Whilst participating in the study the women kept a detailed diary of their hot flushes tracking their severity and frequency. The research team then tracked their changes over 8, 12 and 24 weeks.

At the end of 8 weeks it was noted that acupuncture was having the greatest effect on treating hot flushes and also came out top at the end of the 24 week experiment. The surprise of the study was that sham acupuncture came second followed by the placebo drugs and gabapentin. After the end of the 24 weeks women who had participated in spam acupuncture and placebo drugs had a steeper drop in hot flushes.

“The placebo effects for both acupuncture and drugs are quite intriguing, as they both seem to persist over time," Dr Mao said. "The magnitude of the placebo effect for acupuncture is bigger than for the drug."

Dr Gary Deng, chief of integrative medicine at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre in New York, pointed out that clinicians have come to realise that the placebo effect is very important in treatment. "In fact, in clinical practice, every doctor uses it all of the time," he said. "The so-called bedside manner or communication with patients - all of these enhance the effect of the patients feeling they're getting something." No one is still quite sure why placebos work for some patients and do not work on others. Studies of preventing hot flushes through acupuncture have mostly focused on breast cancer survivors as women going through natural menopause may have other options available to them like hormone replacement therapy.

To read more about this research visit the WebMD website.

Author: Ellie Shaw, Cancerkin