Acupuncture Can Ease Side Effects of Breast Cancer Treatment

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Key Takeaways

  • Acupuncture can relieve hot flashes associated with hormone therapy for breast cancer

  • About 64% of breast cancer patients receiving acupuncture reported fewer and less intense hot flashes

  • Hormone therapy blocks the effect of estrogen and other hormones that can fuel some breast cancers

THURSDAY, June 27, 2024 (HealthDay News) -- Acupuncture can help breast cancer patients deal with the hot flashes that often accompany hormone therapy, a new clinical trial says.

Nearly 2 in 3 women who got acupuncture during hormone therapy reported fewer and less intense hot flashes, results show.

Hormone therapy blocks the effect of estrogen and other hormones that powers some breast cancers.

Unfortunately, 4 in 5 patients (80%) experience hot flashes and other side effects associated with hormone deficiencies, researchers said. This causes some patients to drop hormone therapy, increasing their risk of cancer progression and death.

“By managing side effects, our approach makes it easier for patients to continue their prescribed medication, which has the potential to reduce the risk of cancer recurrence and improve long-term outcomes for breast cancer survivors,” researcher Weidong Lu, lead oncology acupuncturist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, said in a news release.

For the study, researchers recruited 158 women with early to advanced breast cancers who were receiving hormone therapy. Half were randomly assigned to receive acupuncture twice a week for 10 weeks.

About 64% of women who got acupuncture reported improvement in the number and severity of their hot flashes, compared to 18% of women not receiving acupuncture, results show. They also reported greater improvements in quality of life.

After 10 weeks, the women not initially chosen also were given acupuncture, and they also had significant improvements in their hormone therapy symptoms, researchers said.

No side effects from the acupuncture were reported.

“In practice, patients interested in using acupuncture for this purpose might begin with a short trial period to assess their response to the treatment, particularly in terms of reduction in hot flashes and other symptoms,” Lu said. “If the trial period yields positive results, patients may then engage in a long-term program, receiving regular acupuncture sessions throughout the duration of their anti-hormonal medication regimen.”

The new study was published June 24 in the journal Cancer.

More information

The Cleveland Clinic has more on hot flashes.

SOURCE: American Cancer Society, news release, June 24, 2024

What This Means For You

Acupuncture can help women manage hot flashes and other side effects caused by hormone therapy for breast cancer.

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