Thursday, March 11, 2010

Breast Cancer: acupuncture against hot flashes

The hot flashes caused by some treatments for breast cancer could be permanently reduced by acupuncture.

Acupuncture against hot flashes

According to the results of a U.S. clinical trial, acupuncture would help curb hot flashes and night sweats often caused by hormonal therapy for breast cancer. The benefits of this approach are also important and more durable than those made by drugs classically used to counteract these unpleasant side effects. Hot flashes caused by some cancer treatments can be alleviated by the administration of venlafaxine. However, this molecule has its own specific side effects: it causes a dry mouth, loss of appetite, nausea and constipation.

Acupuncture can relieve hot flashes associated with menopause, a team of American doctors had imagined it could also benefit patients in antitumor hormone. The hypothesis was tested in a small clinical trial. Fifty patients were divided randomly into two groups: the first group of women received the drug typically used to reduce hot flashes for twelve weeks. Those of the second group were treated by acupuncture, with two sessions per week for four weeks, then a weekly meeting the remaining eight weeks. Patients were then followed for one year.

Initially, it appeared that both treatment modalities were equally effective, leading one to the other as a reduction of 50% of episodes of hot flashes and mood changes associated. However, while the effect of drug treatment fades after only two weeks, one of acupuncture lasts up to three months. In addition, acupuncture is well tolerated by patients and not accompanied by side effects.

Before it can be definitively established that the benefit of acupuncture is superior to that of the administration of venlafaxine to relieve patients under hormone tumor, these results should be replicated on a larger group of patients.

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