Acupuncture Is an Effective Agent to Combat Hot Flashes in Women with Breast Cancer

June 17, 2016


Take-Home Message:

Women who have completed breast cancer treatment and experience hot flashes may experience relief with acupuncture.


Acupuncture As an Integrative Approach for the Treatment of Hot Flashes in Women with Breast Cancer: A Prospective Multicenter Randomized Controlled Trial (AcCliMaT)

Authors: Lesi G., Razzini G. et. al.
Source: J Clin Oncol, 10.1200/JCO.2015.63.2893

This investigational group recognized that breast cancer patients have more severe and longer lasting hot flashes than postmenopausal women without a history of breast cancer. Breast cancer treatments often exacerbate these symptoms, and hormone replacement therapy is contraindicated. Recommendations such as increased intake of fruits and vegetables, reduced caffeine and alcohol and increased exercise do not show consistent benefit in relieving hot flashes. Acupuncture has shown promise as therapy to curb hot flashes in women with and without breast cancer histories.

The investigational group compared two groups of breast cancer patients experiencing hot flashes: those who received enhanced self-care (a booklet about hot flashes and cancer with recommendations on diet, exercise and psychological support) and those who received enhanced self-care plus 10 traditional acupuncture sessions. Almost all patients had estrogen receptor positive breast cancer and were being treated with hormone blocking therapy. Median age was 49 years. A measurement of hot flash frequency and severity, called the hot flash score (HFS), was compared between groups.

At 12 weeks after initiation of treatment, the HFS was significantly lower in the acupuncture group compared to the enhanced self-care only group. Within each group, the acupuncture group also had a greater reduction in the HFS. A quality of life score showed improved outcomes for vasomotor, psychosocial and physical domains in the acupuncture group vs. the enhanced self-care only group. All effects persisted at 6 months after the end of treatment.

This study provides support for the use of acupuncture to treat hot flashes in hormone receptor-positive breast cancer patients.