Noncyclic breast pain is a common breast disorder prompting women to seek medical evaluation. We aimed to perform a pilot study on the relief of noncyclic breast pain using acupuncture. Thirty-seven women seen at a diagnostic breast clinic between April 2003 and January 2009 were enrolled. Treatment consisted of four acupuncture sessions over two weeks, with three months of follow-up. Response to treatment was measured with use of a breast pain questionnaire, a quality of life (QOL) questionnaire, and the Cleeland Brief Pain Inventory (BPI) assessed at baseline, end of treatment, and three months after treatment. Data were analyzed using standard descriptive statistics. Twenty-two patients completed four acupuncture sessions. Pain described as throbbing and heavy decreased significantly after acupuncture (p = 0.04 and p = 0.03, respectively). After treatment, pain scores (on the 10-point BPI scale) decreased by an average of 3.5 points for the worst pain during the previous month (p = 0.001), by 2.7 points for average pain (p < 0.001), and by 2.3 points for pain interference (p = 0.002). The percentage of patients reporting a clinically meaningful decrease of 2 points from baseline to the end of treatment included 67% (12/18) for the worst pain, 65% (11/17) for average pain, and 56% (10/18) for pain interference. QOL data showed no improvement in QOL measures (mental, physical, emotional, social, or spiritual well-being). The results of this preliminary study suggest that a randomized controlled trial may be warranted to evaluate the effect of acupuncture on noncyclic breast pain, as well as the optimal frequency of acupuncture treatments.
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