BALTIMORE December 23, 2013. Breast cancer patients experience fewer side effects while being treated with a widely used drug called an aromatase inhibitor when they get acupuncture either the real treatment or a "sham" procedure, according to a new study led by researchers at the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center. Their findings are published online in Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society.
"We found that patients with early stage, hormone receptor-positive breast cancer taking an aromatase inhibitor showed significant improvement in some symptoms, especially hot flashes, after eight weekly treatments with real acupuncture or sham acupuncture," says lead author Ting Bao, M.D., D.A.B.M.A, M.S., assistant professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and research scientist at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center.
"There was no statistically significant difference between the two interventions," Dr. Bao says. She notes that the study sample of 47 women 23 who received real acupuncture and 24 who had the sham procedure may not have been large enough to detect a distinction. In addition, sham acupuncture, which is performed using non-penetrating, retractable needles at non-acupuncture points in the body, may have some unexplained physiological effects. "We are not convinced that sham acupuncture is totally inert," she says.
"Importantly, neither type of acupuncture produced any significant side effects, which is good news for patients," Dr. Bao says.
Up to 60 percent of postmenopausal women with breast cancer who take an aromatase inhibitor, which inhibits an enzyme involved in producing estrogen, experience joint and muscle pain and other side effects, such as hot flashes, anxiety and depression. The study findings may lend support to the use of acupuncture to treat these symptoms.
"If we really want to find so
|Contact: Karen Warmkessel|
University of Maryland Medical Center