Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Breast Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Acupuncture Cuts Ails of Breast Cancer Drugs

Acupuncture Reduces Side Effects From Tamoxifen, Arimidex
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.

Today on WebMD

Breast Cancer Overview
From self-exams and biopsies to reconstruction, we’ve got you covered.
Dealing with breast cancer
Get answers to your questions.
woman having mammogram
Experts don’t agree on all fronts, but you can be your own advocate.
woman undergoing breast cancer test
Many women worry. But the truth? Most abnormalities aren’t breast cancer.
Breast Cancer Treatments Improving
Resolved To Quit Smoking
Woman getting mammogram
Screening Tests for Women
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
serious woman
what is your cancer risk
10 Ways to Revitalize Slideshow