Acupuncture can effectively ease hot flushes among women taking anti-oestrogen tamoxifen after breast cancer surgery, says a new study.
Mrs Jill Hervik, a physiotherapist and acupuncturist at the Vestfold Central Hospital (Tonsberg, Norway) revealed that patients who received traditional Chinese acupuncture had a 50 pct reduction in hot flushes, both during the day and the night, and that this effect continued after the acupuncture ceased.
Hervik along with supervisor, Dr Odd Mjoland conducted single-blind, controlled trial on 59 postmenopausal breast cancer patients.
They were either given ten weeks of traditional Chinese acupuncture or sham (minimal) acupuncture between March 2003 and December 2006. All were taking tamoxifen following the surgery.
Mrs Hervik delivered both the real and the sham acupuncture to the patients, and maintained a neutral treatment atmosphere.
Both the acupuncture and the sham acupuncture were given twice a week for the first five weeks and then once a week for the next five weeks
"Acupuncture is increasingly used in western countries to treat the problem of hot flushes in healthy post-menopausal women, so we wanted to see whether it was effective in women with breast cancer suffering from hot flushes as a result of their anti-oestrogen medication," said Mrs Hervik.
The patients were asked to record the number of hot flushes they experienced for four weeks before the treatment, during the treatment and during a 12-week follow-up period.
The real acupuncture was given using needles inserted at varying depths to a maximum of 3cms at several well-known acupuncture points. For the sham acupuncture, the needles were not inserted so deep (a maximum of 3mm) and in places well way from acupuncture points.
"During the treatment, hot flushes were reduced by 50 percent, both day and night, in the acupuncture group," Mrs Hervik said.
"Three months after the last treatment a further reduction was seen. No significant changes were seen in the sham group during the day. At night there was a slight reduction during the treatment period but, once treatment had ceased, the number of hot flushes increased again.
"Acupuncture has two advantages over other treatments for hot flushes: it is cheap and does not cause adverse side-effects," she added.