Using traditional acupuncture for breast cancer-related hot flashes and night sweats
Introduction: Women taking tamoxifen experience hot flashes and night sweats; acupuncture may offer a nonpharmaceutical method of management. This study explored whether traditional acupuncture could reduce hot flashes and night sweats frequency, and improve physical and emotional well-being.
Patients and treatments: This was a single-arm observational study in a National Health Service cancer treatment center in southern England. Fifty (50) patients with early breast cancer completed eight acupuncture treatments. Eligible women were ≥35 years old, ≥6 months post active cancer treatment, taking tamoxifen ≥6 months, and self-reporting ≥4 hot flashes and night sweats incidents/24 hours for ≥3 months.
Patients received weekly acupuncture treatment using a core standardized protocol for treating hot flashes and night sweats in natural menopause. Hot Flash Diaries recorded hot flashes and night sweats frequency over 14-day periods; the Women’s Health Questionnaire (WHQ) assessed physical and emotional well-being; the Hot Flashes and Night Sweats Questionnaire (HFNSQ) assessed hot flashes and night sweats as a problem. Measurements taken at five points over 30 weeks included baseline, midtreatment, end of treatment (EOT), and 4 and 18 weeks after EOT.
Results: Mean frequency reduced by 49.8% at EOT over baseline. Trends indicated longer-term effects at 4 and 18 weeks after EOT. At EOT, seven WHQ domains showed significant improvements, including anxiety/fears, memory/concentration, menstrual problems, sexual behavior, sleep problems, somatic symptoms, and vasomotor symptoms. Perceptions of hot flashes and night sweats as a problem reduced by 2.2 points. In addition to reduced hot flashes and night sweats frequency, women enjoyed improved physical and emotional well-being, and few side-effects were reported.
Conclusion: Acupuncture offers breast cancer survivors choice in managing hot flashes and night sweats.
De Valois BA, et al. Using traditional acupuncture for breast cancer-related hot flashes and night sweats. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 2010;16:1047-1057.