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Acupuncture better than drugs for treating women’s hot flashes

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Acupuncture can help women overcome episodes of hot flashes, which usually happen during the menopause. The ancient Chinese therapy reduces some of the worst symptoms, such as sudden flushing, sweating and racing heartbeat, a new study has found.

The therapy could even be the only way of helping women with breast cancer cope with flashes following estrogen-targeting treatments, say researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s school of medicine. These women can’t take HRT (hormone replacement therapy) as it interferes with their cancer treatment.

Acupuncture was tested on 120 breast cancer survivors suffering many episodes of hot flashes every day, and who were broken up into four groups. For eight weeks, the women were either given the epilepsy drug gabapentin, which has had some success in treating hot flashes, or a placebo drug, or electro-acupuncture twice a week for two weeks, and then once a week, or ‘sham’ acupuncture, where the needles didn’t penetrate the skin.

Those given true acupuncture experienced the greatest improvement in the frequency and severity of their flashes, and both the acupuncture groups reported fewer side effects than the drug group. Those given true acupuncture over the sham therapy reported a 25 per cent greater reduction in their symptoms.

Interestingly, even the sham acupuncture was more effective than the drug.

(Source: Journal of Clinical Oncology, 2015; doi: 10.1200/JCO.2015.60.9412)

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Article Topics: Cancer, Estrogen, Menopause, placebo
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