Using Traditional Acupuncture for Breast Cancer-Related Hot Flashes and Night Sweats

Supportive Oncology Research Team (SORT), Lynda Jackson Macmillan Centre (LJMC), Mount Vernon Hospital, Middlesex, United Kingdom.
Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.) (Impact Factor: 1.59). 10/2010; 16(10):1047-57. DOI: 10.1089/acm.2009.0472
Source: PubMed


Women taking tamoxifen experience hot flashes and night sweats (HF&NS); acupuncture may offer a nonpharmaceutical method of management. This study explored whether traditional acupuncture (TA) could reduce HF&NS frequency, improve physical and emotional well-being, and improve perceptions of HF&NS. DESIGN/SETTINGS/LOCATION: This was a single-arm observational study using before and after measurements, located in a National Health Service cancer treatment center in southern England.
Fifty (50) participants with early breast cancer completed eight TA treatments. Eligible women were ≥ 35 years old, ≥ 6 months post active cancer treatment, taking tamoxifen ≥ 6 months, and self-reporting ≥ 4 HF&NS incidents/24 hours for ≥ 3 months.
Participants received weekly individualized TA treatment using a core standardized protocol for treating HF&NS in natural menopause.
Hot Flash Diaries recorded HF&NS frequency over 14-day periods; the Women's Health Questionnaire (WHQ) assessed physical and emotional well-being; the Hot Flashes and Night Sweats Questionnaire (HFNSQ) assessed HF&NS as a problem. Measurements taken at five points over 30 weeks included baseline, midtreatment, end of treatment (EOT), and 4 and 18 weeks after EOT. Results for the primary outcome: Mean frequency reduced by 49.8% (95% confidence interval 40.5-56.5, p < 0.0001, n = 48) at EOT over baseline. Trends indicated longer-term effects at 4 and 18 weeks after EOT. At EOT, seven WHQ domains showed significant statistical and clinical improvements, including Anxiety/Fears, Memory/Concentration, Menstrual Problems, Sexual Behavior, Sleep Problems, Somatic Symptoms, and Vasomotor Symptoms. Perceptions of HF&NS as a problem reduced by 2.2 points (standard deviation = 2.15, n = 48, t = 7.16, p < 0.0001).
These results compare favorably with other studies using acupuncture to manage HF&NS, as well as research on nonhormonal pharmaceutical treatments. In addition to reduced HF&NS frequency, women enjoyed improved physical and emotional well-being, and few side-effects were reported. Further research is warranted into this approach, which offers breast cancer survivors choice in managing a chronic condition.

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    • "A course of acupuncture treatment has been found to reduce hot flushes associated with normal menopause and also from hormonal treatments for cancer. Studies found that acupuncture reduced hot flushes by up to 60% in women treated with tamoxifen for breast cancer [108, 110, 111, 205]. Those in the acupuncture group additionally reported improved libido, increased energy, and improved clarity of thought and sense of well-being. "
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