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Electroacupuncture Eases Hot Flashes in Breast Cancer Survivors

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The use of electroacupuncture reduced hot flashes among breast cancer patients significantly more than the standard treatment used for hot flashes (the agent, gabapentin). These results were recently published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Among breast cancer patients, hot flashes are a common side effect that can significantly reduce the quality of life of patients and sometimes even become debilitating.

The drug, gabapentin, is commonly used for the treatment of these hot flashes; however, some patients do not respond well to the drug. Furthermore, some patients have responded well in regards to hot flashes with acupuncture.

Researchers recently conducted a clinical trial to directly compare acupuncture to gabapentin in the treatment of hot flashes among breast cancer patients. The trial included 120 breast cancer survivors who had experienced hot flashes two or more times per day.

Patients were randomly assigned to one of the following groups for 8 weeks of treatment of hot flashes: electroacupuncture (acupuncture coupled with an electrical current); gabapentin; sham acupuncture; or placebo pills (sugar pills). Assessment was performed at 24 weeks.

Overall, patients treated with electroacupuncture suffered from fewer hot flashes than patients in any of the other groups.

Following electroacupuncture, the greatest reductions in hot flashes occurred in patients treated with sham acupuncture, gabapentin and placebo pills, respectively.

The researchers stated that electroacupuncture may provide real relief to breast cancer patients suffering from hot flashes. They also stated that longer follow-up and larger trials are necessary to confirm these findings.

Reference: Mao J, Bowman M, Xie S, et al Electroacupuncture versus gabapentin for hot flashes among breast cancer survivors: a randomized placebo-controlled trial. Journal of Clinical Oncology. Published online before print on August 24, 2015, doi: 10.1200/JCO.2015.60.9412