Acupuncture Vs. Drugs For Hot Flashes

| June 30, 2010 | 0 Comments | 190 views

Hot flashes are a miserable trial of menopause; not to mention an added burden to an estimated 65% of women being treated for breast cancer. No matter what brings them on, any woman who has ever had one feels the flushing, burning heat as never before. Recent research by a team at Henry Ford Hospital looked at the effectiveness of antidepressant Effexor (a common treatment option for breast cancer patients) and a staple of traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture for handling these terribly uncomfortable and disruptive symptoms.

While hormone replacement therapy is typically recommended for menopausal women to help them beat the heat, these drugs aren't an option for breast cancer patients. For these women, Effexor has been shown effective, as have Prosac and Paxil. Still, there are many who refuse these therapies; either due to concern over side effects or a desire to limit the number of drugs they are putting into their bodies.

Researchers, led by radiation oncologist Dr. Eleanor Walker of Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit worked with acupuncturist Beth Kohn to complete the study. Participants were randomly assigned to receive acupuncture treatments or take the Effexor for the duration of the 12 week study. The results were presented at an American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology meeting held last week in Boston.

While both methods proved effective in reducing the number of hot flashes in the subjects, those who received acupuncture during the study noted other benefits as well. Without side effects, the treatment brought subjects increased energy, a better sense of well-being and more sexual desire.

Those who took Effexor during the study did find relief for their hot flashes with the drug. This group however, also reported side effects like nausea, headache, dizziness, increased blood pressure, fatigue, anxiety and difficulty sleeping. It's just these types of side effects that keep many breast cancer patients from using the antidepressant medication to manage their hot flashes.
Beyond a lack of side effects, acupuncture provided the female subjects a most lasting relief from their hot flashes.

"It was a more durable effect," says Walker of findings that support a more lasting effect of the natural, side effect free acupuncture. The traditional Chinese medicine approach brought relief for 15 weeks after treatments were stopped; Effexor brought 2 weeks of relief once the drug had been discontinued.

As parts of traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture has been practiced for thousands of years. In fact, references to acupuncture appear in the oldest medical textbook in the world. The techniques of Chinese medicine were virtually unknown to the West until the 17th century when Jesuit missionaries sent to convert the Chinese to Christianity came home to with stories of treatment and recovery.

If you do decide to give acupuncture a try, discuss your plans with your doctor or health care team first. You might be surprised to find they support your efforts to find relief from your hot flashes - especially if other treatments haven't worked (or worked well enough) for you. To find an acupuncturist in your area, you can use the resources of the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture or the American Association of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine.

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