Acupuncture Helps with Breast Cancer Drug Pain


What You Need to Know: For women with breast cancer receiving aromatase inhibitors (AIs), real acupuncture (RA) and sham acupuncture (SA) seem to improve patient-reported outcomes, according to a study published online Dec. 23 in Cancer.

The Study: Ting Bao, M.D., from the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center in Baltimore, and colleagues randomized postmenopausal women with stage 0 through III breast cancer who received an AI and had treatment-associated musculoskeletal symptoms to receive eight weekly RA (23 patients) or SA (24 patients) sessions.

Results: The researchers identified significantly improved scores from baseline to week eight in the RA arm for the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression scale (P = 0.022); hot flash severity and frequency (P = 0.006 and 0.011, respectively); the Hot Flash-Related Daily Interference Scale (HFRDI; P = 0.014); and National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project (NSABP) menopausal symptoms (P = 0.022). In the SA arm, significant improvements from baseline were seen for the European quality-of-life survey (P = 0.022), the HFRDI (P = 0.043), and NSABP menopausal symptoms (P = 0.005). Compared with the 38 non-African-American patients, the nine African-American patients benefited more from RA than SA in reduction of hot flash severity and frequency scores (P < 0.01 for both).

“Both RA and SA were associated with improvement in patient-reported outcomes among patients with breast cancer who were receiving AIs, and no significant difference was detected between arms,” the authors conclude.

My Take: Small study, but provides some support for those who wish to try acupuncture for aromatase inhibitor-related symptoms.The authors disclosed no financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry. I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

Available now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Both can be found at the Apple Ibooks store. Coming Soon for iPad:  Understand Breast Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minute; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Thank you.

Reference: Cancer 120(3)

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Harvard AB Yale MD UPenn Radiation Oncology Radiation Oncologist, Seattle area

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