Acupuncture outperformed one of the most common non-hormonal drugs prescribed for menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, in a study conducted by researchers from Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit and presented at a meeting of the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology.
"It's been tested directly against a drug that we use regularly. And it's more effective," said lead researcher Eleanor Walker. "It has benefits, as opposed to any side-effects."
Researchers assigned 47 female breast cancer patients to receive treatment either with the antidepressant Effexor or with acupuncture for 12 weeks. The participants recorded how many hot flashes they experienced throughout the course of the study and for several months afterward, as well as their severity.
Acupuncture is a traditional form of Chinese medicine that involves inserting needles into certain key points in the body.
Menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes are common side effects of breast cancer treatment. Such symptoms are often treated with antidepressants, since hormone replacement therapy may increase the risk of cancer recurrence. Concern over side effects, however, keeps many women from taking these drugs.
In the current study, Effexor patients reported side effects including anxiety, dizziness, fatigue, headache, elevated blood pressure, nausea and sleeping trouble. No negative side effects were reported from acupuncture, however, even though the Chinese medicine was just as effective as the antidepressant at reducing the number and severity of hot flashes.
Furthermore, while the effects of Effexor only lasted for two weeks after treatment had ended, symptoms remained reduced for 15 weeks after the end of acupuncture treatment.
"It was a more durable effect," Walker said. "If you only have to give women treatment three to four times a year as opposed to having to take a pill every day, that's going to be more cost-effective."
Effexor, marketed by Wyeth, is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). It is also known as venlafaxine.
Sources for this story include: www.reuters.com
by David Gutierrez, staff writer