Acupuncture Continuing Education

Acupuncture Reduces Hot Flashes for Breast Cancer Survivors

New research demonstrates that acupuncture is an effective treatment for hot flashes in breast cancer survivors. Acupuncture needle technique applied to the back is depicted. The research demonstrates that acupuncture reduces both the frequency and intensity of hot flashes while at the same time improving the overall quality of sleep. The researchers examined feedback and found that the acupuncture treatments were described as relaxing by most participants. The researchers also noted that the results show that acupuncture is cost effective, safe and does not exhibit the adverse affects caused by medications

Data from the research discovered that acupuncture improved the overall quality of life score over venlafaxine. Acupuncture improved symptoms but did not induce unwanted side effects. The medication venlafaxine, however, caused a 72% incidence of adverse affects. The researchers noted that in one study venlafaxine side effects caused 21% of study participants to withdraw due to the severity of the adverse effects. Acupuncture, by contrast, improved the overall quality of life and improved symptoms. Acupuncture and venlafaxine decreased hot flashes, improved menopausal symptoms and reduced mental health issues. The researchers noted that acupuncture is “only modestly more costly” than venlafaxine but does not have the unwanted side effects of the medication.

The researchers also discovered data showing that acupuncture decreases the frequency of hot flashes associated with tamoxifen intake. Patients are often given this estrogen antagonist as a means to prevent the recurrence of breast cancer. The data showed a significant reduction in hot flashes as a result of acupuncture treatments to the point where patients were able to continue tamoxifen intake. Prior, the side effects of the drug prompted discontinuation of the cancer prevention drug. In this way, acupuncture may enable patients to continue with cancer medication therapy by controlling adverse effects.

The study showed a 71% decrease in the number of nighttime hot flashes as a result of acupuncture treatment. Prior to acupuncture treatment, participants averaged 1 - 20 nighttime hot flashes. Following the acupuncture treatment regime, the average number of nighttime hot flashes reduced to 0 - 5 per night. A 60% decrease occurred in daytime hot flashes as a result of acupuncture treatment. In addition, all participants in the study had a significant decrease in the severity of hot flashes following the acupuncture treatment regime. All participants were given a questionnaire following the acupuncture treatment regime and all participants noted they would recommend acupuncture to a family member or friend.

The patients in the study provided some interesting responses. One participant noted, “It was relaxing during the treatment.” This was a common comment with others stating, “It was relaxing. I enjoyed the quietness,” while another participant noted, “I felt relaxed, calm, and in control of my emotions.” Patients also gave personal comments on the efficacy of care in their feedback. One participant noted, “It minimized my hot flashes,” another noted that, “They actually worked. I also enjoyed the total wellness.” One patient noted that, “It decreased my hot flashes and I sweat a lot less.” Another patient provided similar feedback, “I noticed improvements immediately in sleep patterns. I didn’t wake in the middle of the night with hot sweats. My hot flashes were less often even during the day.”

Breast cancer is the most prevalent form of cancer for women in the USA. Severe hot flashes that adversely affect the lives of breast cancer survivors occurs at a rate of approximately 85%. Pharmaceutical approaches to the management of hot flashes pose three obstacles. Many drugs are ineffective in controlling hot flashes. Many effective drugs are contraindicated for breast cancer survivors. Lastly, many drugs cause severe side effects and cause women to discontinue medication. Acupuncture was found safe, effective and well received for the treatment of hot flashes. The implications are enormous in that the overall quality of life scores increased while hot flashes decreased. Additionally, acupuncture enables tolerable intake of medications used to prevent breast cancer recurrence.

Misiewicz, Hollis. "Acupuncture for the Management of Hot Flashes in Breast Cancer Survivors." Mercy Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland (2013).