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Acupuncture May Cut Hot Flashes, Boost Sex Drive in Breast Cancer Patients
Date:12/30/2009

But the study was small and one expert believes more research is needed

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 30 (HealthDay News) -- Acupuncture is just as good as standard medication to ease hot flashes and other uncomfortable symptoms in women undergoing breast cancer treatment.

And as an added bonus, the needle treatment may boost the patient's sex drive and contribute to clearer thinking.

"I think the data shows you that acupuncture is a good option for these patients [and] it has no side effects," added Dr. Eleanor Walker, division director of breast services in the department of radiation oncology at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, and lead author of a study appearing online Dec. 28 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

But another expert warned against taking the findings too seriously at this stage.

"It's provocative but the problem is it's a small number of patients and, having participated in research trials in vasomotor [hot flashes, night sweats, etc.] symptoms in women, it's a field that has a large placebo effect," said Dr. Jay Brooks, chairman of hematology/oncology at Ochsner Health System in Baton Rouge. "It needs to have a bigger trial."

Prior studies have shown that acupuncture can reduce hot flashes in postmenopausal women without breast cancer.

All of these studies, however, compared acupuncture to sham acupuncture, not to commonly used drugs, Walker noted. This is the first randomized controlled study to compare acupuncture alongside medication.

Many women with breast cancer receive anti-estrogen hormone therapy, usually for as long as five years, in addition to other treatments.

Although hormone therapy is effective in reducing tumor recurrence, it does cause hot flashes and night sweats.

The antidepressant Effexor (venlafaxine) is the most commonly used therapy for relieving these symptoms, but the drug brings its own problems, namely dry mouth,
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