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Acupuncture—Real or Sham—May Alleviate Menopausal Symptoms From Breast Cancer Drug

Acupuncture—Real or Sham—May Alleviate Menopausal Symptoms From Breast Cancer Drug

Acupuncture helped alleviate hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms in postmenopausal women with a stage 0 through III breast cancer who were taking aromatase inhibitors and suffering from joint or muscle discomfort, according to a small study published online in the American Cancer Society’s journal Cancer.

The study also found that there was little difference between patients who received what they called “real acupuncture” when compared with those who received “sham acupuncture,” which involves the placement of nonpenetrating retractable needles in nonacupuncture points.

"It could be that there is no difference, or it could be that in this small trial we just didn't have enough patients to detect a significant difference," said study author Dr. Ting Bao, of the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center in Baltimore.

To determine whether acupuncture could help alleviate patients' symptoms, Bao and her colleagues randomized 47 patients to receive 8 weekly acupuncture treatments. Half received the sham treatment, and the other half were given the real treatment. Both groups experienced lessening of their symptoms, especially hot flashes, with little difference found between the two acupuncture groups.

Compared with baseline, scores in the real acupuncture arm improved significantly at week 8 on the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression scale (P=0.022), hot flash severity (P=0 .006), hot flash frequency (P=0.011), the Hot Flash-Related Daily Interference Scale (P=0.014), and the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project menopausal symptoms questionnaire (P=0.022).

Similarly, scores in the sham acupuncture arm improved significantly on the European quality-of-life survey (P=0.022), the Hot Flash-Related Daily Interference Scale (P=0.043), and the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project menopausal symptoms questionnaire (P=0.005).

The researchers’ post-hoc data analysis also found a difference between how African American patients (n=9) and non-African American patients (n=38) responded to acupuncture. The findings suggested that the severity and frequency of hot flashes in African American women, compared with women of other races, were reduced more significantly from real acupuncture than from sham acupuncture (P<0.001).

"This kind of result is not definitive, but it does suggest that we should probably look further into the possibility that acupuncture may work better in some ethnicity groups than others," Bao said.

Pertinent Points:
- Acupuncture helped alleviate hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms in postmenopausal women with a stage 0 through III breast cancer receiving aromatase inhibitors, a small study found.
- The study randomized the patients to receive either real or sham acupuncture. The results showed that both forms of acupuncture resulted in improved symptoms.

References

Bao T, Cai L, Snyder C, et al. Patient-reported outcomes in women with breast cancer enrolled in a dual-center, double-blind, randomized controlled trial assessing the effect of acupuncture in reducing aromatase inhibitor-induced musculoskeletal symptoms. Cancer. December 23, 2013;doi:10.1002/cncr.28352.

 
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