Acupuncture for the treatment of hot flashes in breast cancer patients, a randomized, controlled trial

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Abstract

Objectives: The object of this study was to investigate the efficacy of acupuncture in women with breast cancer suffering from hot flashes, as a result of anti-oestrogen medication. Methods: In a prospective, randomized, controlled trial, 90 women suffering from hot flashes following breast cancer surgery and adjuvant oestrogen-antagonist treatment (Tamoxifen) were randomized to either 10 weeks of traditional Chinese acupuncture or sham acupuncture. Mean number of hot flashes day and night were recorded prior to treatment, during the treatment period, and for 12 weeks following treatment. A validated health score, (Kupperman index) indicating health related quality of life, was conducted at baseline, at the end treatment, and at 3 and 24 months post treatment. Results: During treatment mean number of hot flashes day and night was significantly reduced by 50 and 60% respectively in the acupuncture group, and further reduced by 30% day and night during the next 12 weeks. A significant hot flash reduction of 25% at night was seen during treatment in the sham group, but was reversed at 12 weeks. No reduction was seen in the daytime. Kupperman index was reduced by 44% during treatment in the acupuncture group, and maintained 12 weeks after treatment ended. No corresponding changes were seen in the sham acupuncture group. Kupperman values for both groups 2 years post treatment are currently being calculated. Conclusion: Acupuncture seems to provide effective relief from hot flashes in women operated for breast cancer, treated with Tamoxifen. This treatment effect coincides with a general health improvement.

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