Bokmand, S., & Flyger, H. (2013). Acupuncture relieves menopausal discomfort in breast cancer patients: A prospective, double blinded, randomized study. The Breast, 22, 320–323.doi: 10.1016/j.breast.2012.07.015
To investigate the therapeutic effect of acupuncture on hot flashes and disturbed sleep in patients with breast cancer, the possible side effects of this treatment, and the effect on plasma estradiol levels
Two experienced acupuncturists provided either true acupuncture or sham acupuncture in the predetermined points. Group 1 had manual acupuncture in pre-determined bilateral points for 15–20 minutes once a week for five consecutive weeks. These points were Hc6, Ki3, Sp6, and Lr3, which are located on the wrist, ankle, and foot. Group 2 had sham acupuncture in four predetermined bilateral non-acupuncture points outside the meridian but within the same region as the true points. The treatment was given once a week for five weeks. Group 3 received no acupuncture. All groups completed a log book. Plasma estradiol levels were measured in blood samples obtained just prior to the first treatment and 30 minutes after. It was measured again at five weeks later and 30 minutes after the final treatment. Group 3 had plasma estradiol levels obtained at allocation and five weeks later.
The researchers reported that a significant relief occurred in the acupuncture group after the second treatment, lasting until 6 weeks post-treatment (p < 0.05), as compared to the sham acupuncture and no treatment groups, which lasted for at least 12 weeks. A decrease in sleep disturbance also was noted in the same group as compared to the others. Side effects were reported as mild and temporary. Reported side effects included fatigue, pruritus, and nausea. No effect on the plasma estradiol levels in all groups occurred. Eleven women from all groups reported using concurrent treatments including clonidine and/or venlafaxine, mirtazapine with clonidine, and hormone replacement.
The acupuncture group reported a decrease in hot flashes versus the other groups. No formal validation of the visual analog scale occurred. The concurrent use of other therapies may influence the reported outcomes. Restrictions of concurrent therapies for hot flashes during participation and validation of the self-reporting tool were needed.
A large randomized trial exploring acupuncture versus placebo is needed that restricts concurrent therapy usage during trial participation and includes women with breast cancer having similar hot flash interventions such as tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitors with hot flash occurrence. True acupuncture may benefit, but further study is indicated.