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    Acupuncture Cuts Ails of Breast Cancer Drugs

    Acupuncture Reduces Side Effects From Tamoxifen, Arimidex
    By
    WebMD Health News
    Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

    Sept. 22, 2008 -- Acupuncture eases the hot flashes and night sweats common in women taking tamoxifen and Arimidex after breast cancer treatment.

    In a clinical trial, acupuncture helped hot flashes as much as Effexor, the antidepressant currently prescribed for women suffering the menopausal side effects of anti-estrogen drugs.

    Effexor itself has troubling side effects, but acupuncture doesn't, says study leader Eleanor Walker, MD, a radiation oncologist at Detroit's Henry Ford Hospital.

    "With acupuncture you can get a treatment for those hot flashes that can alleviate them equal to drug therapy -- without side effects and with improved quality of life," Walker tells WebMD.

    Acupuncture is a technique from Chinese medicine. It involves the usually painless process of placing extremely thin needles into the skin along specific "acupuncture points." Acupuncturists think of these points as nodes where lines of bodily energy converge, although these lines of energy do not correspond to any actual physical structures known to Western medicine.

    Walker and colleagues studied 47 women receiving either tamoxifen or Arimidex after breast cancer treatment. Each woman suffered at least 14 hot flashes a week.

    Half the women were treated with Effexor for 12 weeks; the other half received acupuncture. The two groups had similar, significant decreases in hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms. Both groups also had fewer symptoms of depression.

    But women taking Effexor also had negative side effects. These included nausea, dry mouth, headache, difficulty sleeping, dizziness, double vision, increased blood pressure, constipation, fatigue, anxiety, feeling "spaced out," and body jerking during the night.

    Women getting acupuncture had none of these side effects, but they did report increases in energy, clarity of thought, sexual desire, and overall well-being.

    The findings don't surprise licensed acupuncturist Janet Konefal, PhD, assistant dean for complementary and integrative medicine at the University of Miami.

    "We have had full-time, licensed acupuncturists at our cancer center for almost a decade," Konefal tells WebMD.

    Konefal says acupuncturists help cancer patients deal not only with anti-estrogen therapy, but also with the troubling side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

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