Acupuncture for treatment of hot flashes in cancer therapy related hormone suppression
A unique study was presented September 24, 2008, at the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology’s 50th Annual Meeting in Boston titled Acupuncture for the Treatment of Vasomotor Symptoms in Breast Cancer Patients Receiving Hormone Suppression Treatment
It involved 47 breast cancer patients undergoing estrogen suppression treatment with Tamoxifen and Arimidex, drugs that frequently result in the debilitating side effects of hot flashes, night sweats, and excessive sweating (vasomotor symptoms)
Patients were divided into two groups, one group used the antidepressant, venlafaxine (Effexor), a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor,which is one of the most common drugs used to treat these hot flashes. The other group was given acupuncture only.
The acupuncture group showed similar reduction of hot flashes, night sweats, and excessive sweating but without the antidepressants side effects and with improvement in the sense of wellbeing and of energy. These results remained stable with followup.
“Our study shows that physicians and patients have an additional therapy for something that affects the majority of breast cancer survivors and actually has benefits, as opposed to more side effects. The effect is more durable than a drug commonly used to treat these vasomotor symptoms and, ultimately, is more cost-effective for insurance companies,” Eleanor Walker, M.D., lead author of the study and a radiation oncologist at the Henry Ford Hospital Department of Radiation Oncology in Detroit, said.
Similar results have been shown with men experiencing hot flashes, sweats and other symptoms resulting from hormonal suppression for prostate cancer. These were reported in International Journal of Radiation Oncology * Biology * Physics Volume 79, Issue 5 , Pages 1358-1363, 1 April 2011 and titled Acupuncture for the Alleviation of Hot Flashes in Men Treated With Androgen Ablation Therapy
It was noted that “Acupuncture provides excellent control of hot flashes in men with a history of AAT (androgen ablation therapy) . The absence of side effects and the durable response at 8 months are likely to be appealing to patients.”
The breast cancer study confirms efficacy of acupuncture frequently seen in complementary cancer care with women undergoing breast cancer treatment. Fewer men undergoing hormonal suppression appear to use acupuncture but reduction in vasomotor symptoms seen in the prostate cancer study may involve a similar mechanism.
Thomas Martin LAC