Acupuncture and Hot Flashes
Many of us are catapulted into sudden menopause by breast cancer treatment. Most women in their 40s (or older) who receive chemotherapy lose their periods. Some younger women do, too, but they are more apt to have their periods return. Hormonal treatments can also bring menopause, and some younger women are given monthly injections to shut down their ovaries and stop their periods. All of this is to say that hot flashes become an issue for many of us. (also for older women who are told to stop taking HRT when breast cancer is diagnosed)
In my experience, there is a huge range of how difficult hot flashes are for individual women. Some, like me, have occasional "warm flashes" and some are tortured by frequent red/sweaty/intensely hot flashes. Since any treatments that include estrogen (and this means many herbal treatments, too) are contra-indicated, women turn to other things that might help. Acupuncture is sometimes suggested as helpful in reducing hot flashes, and I was interested to read this review by Dr Lee and her colleagues in South Korea. Here is the abstract:
The objective of this review was to assess the effectiveness of acupuncture as a treatment option for hot flashes in patients with breast cancer. We searched the literature using 14 databases from their inceptions to August 2008, without language restrictions. We included randomised clinical trials (RCTs) comparing real with sham acupuncture or another active treatment or no treatment.
Their methodological quality was assessed using the modified Jadad score. Three RCTs compared the effects of manual acupuncture with sham acupuncture. One RCT showed favourable effects of acupuncture in reducing hot flash frequency, while other two RCTs failed to do so. The meta-analysis show significant effects of acupuncture compared with sham acupuncture (n = 189, weight mean difference, 3.09, 95% confidence intervals -0.04 to 6.23, P = 0.05) but marked heterogeneity was observed in this model (v2 = 8.32, P = 0.02, I2 = 76%). One RCT compared the effects of electroacupuncture (EA) with hormone replacement therapy. Hormone therapy was more effective than EA. Another RCT compared acupuncture with venlafaxine and reported no significant intergroup difference.
A further RCT compared acupuncture with applied relaxation and failed to show a significant intergroup difference. In conclusion, the evidence is not convincing to suggest acupuncture is an effective treatment of hot flash in patients with breast cancer. Further research is required to investigate whether there are specific effects of acupuncture for treating hot flash in patients with breast cancer.
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