Acupuncture Reduces Treatment Side-Effects in Breast Cancer Patients

Here’s another study showing the benefits of acupuncture in supporting breast cancer patients in comparison to those on drug therapy. The chemo drugs typically cause hot flashes for women being treated for breast cancer. To address the hot flashes, the women are given another drug,
Venlafaxine (Effexor) which also has side effects. So Dr. Eleanor Walker and her team decided to study acupuncture’s effect in treating hot flashes for breast cancer patients.

The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, found that the acupuncture and drug group had similar results in reduction of symptoms (mainly hot flashes and depression are noted here) during treatment. But the post treatment follow-up is where it gets interesting. The drug patients symptoms returned within two weeks from when they stopped taking the drug. But the acupuncture patients stayed symptom free longer. The abstract mentions that it was 3 months later until re-emergence of symptoms were seen in the acupuncture group. Based on my clinical experience, I’m hypothesizing that had these women continued treatments at a maintenance frequency, symptoms may not have reappeared. When symptoms did re-emerge, only a short ‘booster’ course of treatments would have been needed to address them.

The acupuncture group also experienced other beneficial results of treatment not seen in the drug group, such a increased energy and libido, mental clarity (chemo patients often experience ‘brain fog’) and a greater sense of well-being during treatment for this life threatening disease. KB

Acupuncture Improves Quality of Life Among Breast Cancer Patients

Posted on 2010-01-06 06:00:00 in Alternative Medicine | Cancer |

Eleanor M. Walker, from Henry Ford Hospital (Michigan, USA), and colleagues studied 50 breast cancer patients, randomly assigned to receive either acupuncture or drug (venlafaxine) treatment for 12 weeks. The acupuncture group received treatments twice per week for the first four weeks, and then once a week for the remaining eight weeks, while the drug therapy group took venlafaxine orally each night, 37.5mg the first week and then 75mg for the remaining 11 weeks. At the end of 12 weeks, all patients stopped their therapy and were followed for one year. Patients kept a diary to record the number and severity of hot flashes, and took surveys to measure their overall health and mental health. While both groups initially experienced a 50% decline in hot flashes and depressive symptoms, differences began to emerge two weeks post-treatment: The acupuncture group continued to experience minimal hot flashes, while the drug therapy group had a significant increase in hot flashes. The acupuncture group did not experience an increase in the frequency of their hot flashes until three months post-treatment. Noting in addition that ”the acupuncture group experienced no negative adverse effects. Acupuncture had the additional benefit of increased sex drive in some women, and most reported an improvement in their energy, clarity of thought, and sense of well-being,” the researchers conclude that: “Acupuncture appears to be equivalent to drug therapy in these patients. It is a safe, effective and durable treatment for vasomotor symptoms secondary to long-term antiestrogen hormone use in patients with breast cancer.”

Eleanor M. Walker, Alba I. Rodriguez, Beth Kohn, Ronald M. Ball, Jan Pegg, Jeffrey R. Pocock, Ramon Nunez, Ed Peterson, Susan Jakary, and Robert A. Levine. “Acupuncture Versus Venlafaxine for the Management of Vasomotor Symptoms in Patients With Hormone Receptor–Positive Breast Cancer: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” J Clinical Oncology published online December 28, 2009, DOI:10.1200/JCO.2009.23.5150.