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Acupuncture for Cancer-Treatment-Induced Hot Flashes

Acupuncture for Cancer-Treatment-Induced Hot Flashes

When Cybill Shepherd recorded the Menopause Blues (it’s on You Tube) in 2004 she crooned about “those hot flashin’, mood swingin’” miseries. But we bet she didn’t know that for millions of women with breast cancer (and men with prostate cancer) those symptoms are a direct result of their life-saving treatments. Up to 80 percent of prostate survivors, especially those on hormone-deprivation therapy and 80 percent of women on Tamoxifen, for treatment of estrogen-dependent breast cancer, experience hot flashes. Oftentimes they’re bad enough for folks to consider ending their cancer therapy. And medications such antidepressants, anti-seizure medication and anti-anxiety medications, commonly prescribed to quell the fire, sometimes are ineffective or come with their own serious side effects.

But now for the good news. First, those hot flashes, at least for women taking Tamoxifen, are a positive. A five-year study of almost 900 women, found those with hot flashes were less likely to have recurrence of breast cancer than those who stayed cool. And…ta-da…electro-acupuncture (EA) works to tame hot flashes and night sweats more effectively than the often-prescribed anti-seizure drug gabapentin (even sham acupuncture worked better!). For guys being treated for prostate cancer and others who are getting chemotherapy or radiation treatments that trigger hormone shifts, this treatment is worth a try. The researchers did 30-minute sessions daily for eight weeks and found even after treatment at week 24 the women who got EA were staying much cooler. Talk to your oncologist about finding a reliable practitioner in your area.

Medically reviewed in January 2020.

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