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Acupuncture (PDQ®): Complementary and alternative medicine - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Human / Clinical Studies

Table 3. Clinical Studies of Acupuncture: Nausea and Vomitinga continued...

Vasomotor symptoms

Some studies have reported that acupuncture may be effective in reducing vasomotor symptoms among postmenopausal women with breast cancer and prostate cancer patients on androgen-deprivation therapy.[43,44,45,46,47,48,49] One study randomly assigned 55 patients to acupuncture versus venlafaxine for management of vasomotor symptoms in women with hormone receptor–positive breast cancer. Acupuncture was just as effective as venlafaxine and caused fewer adverse effects.[45]

A phase I pilot study evaluated the effect of acupuncture on tamoxifen -induced menopause symptoms.[44] Fifteen patients with breast cancer who were taking tamoxifen were treated with acupuncture weekly for 3 months. The Greene Menopause Index was used for outcome assessments at baseline before treatment and at 1, 3, and 6 months. The results showed that anxiety, depression, and somatic and vasomotor symptoms, but not libido, were significantly improved in comparison with the baseline (P < .001).

An uncontrolled prospective case series of 50 women on tamoxifen for early breast cancer evaluated women receiving eight treatments of traditional acupuncture weekly. Mean frequency of vasomotor symptoms dropped by 49.8% (P < .0001) at the end of treatment. Seven domains of the Women's Health Questionnaire showed statistically significant improvement.[50]

A retrospective evaluation of 194 patients with predominantly breast or prostate cancer and experiencing vasomotor symptoms found long-term relief of vasomotor symptoms associated with acupuncture and self-acupuncture. The authors suggested that overall treatment dose may be more important than point location, but favored SP6.[51] A small RCT of EA compared with hormone therapy in women with breast cancer suggested a prolonged effect of EA on hot flushes after 24 months. Seven of 19 women initially randomly assigned to EA had 2.1 flushes in 24 hours compared with a baseline of 9.6 flushes in 24 hours.[52] In a prospective randomized study of 84 breast cancer patients on tamoxifen treated with acupuncture versus placebo, acupuncture showed a reduction of hot flashes in both the treatment and the control arms, but there was no difference between true acupuncture and sham acupuncture.[53] The findings from these studies are summarized in Table 4 below.

Table 4. Clinical Studies of Acupuncture: Vasomotor Symptomsa

Reference Citation(s)Type of StudyCondition TreatedNo. of Patients: Enrolled; Treated; ControlbStrongest Benefit ReportedcConcurrent Therapy (Yes/No/ Unknown)dLevel of Evidence Scoree
EA = electroacupuncture; No. = number; RCT = randomized controlled trial; SSRIs = selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.
a Refer to text and theNCI Dictionary of Cancer Termsfor additional information and definition of terms.
b Number of patients treated plus number of patient controls may not equal number of patients enrolled; number of patients enrolled equals number of patients initially considered by the researcher who conducted a study; number of patients treated equals number of enrolled patients who were given the treatment being studied AND for whom results were reported.
c Strongest evidence reported that the treatment under study has anticancer activity or otherwise improves the well-being of cancer patients.
d Concurrent therapy for symptoms treated (not cancer).
e For information about levels of evidence analysis and an explanation of the level of evidence scores, refer toLevels of Evidence for Human Studies of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
fP< .001, versus baseline.
[43]RCTHot flashes in breast cancer patients treated with tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors72; 42; 30Reduction of hot flashes but no statistical difference between acupuncture and sham treatmentYes (SSRIs)1iiC
[52]RCTHot flushes45; 27 EA; 18 hormone therapyVasomotor symptoms improvedUnknown1iiC
[45]RCTHot flashes50; 25; 25Vasomotor symptoms improvedYes (tamoxifen or arimidex)1iiC
[53]RCTHot flashes in breast cancer patients treated with tamoxifen84; 74; noneDecrease in severity and frequency in hot flushes and sweatingYes (tamoxifen)1iiC
[44]Phase I pilot studyMenopausal symptoms in breast cancer patients treated with tamoxifen15; 15 acupuncture; noneAnxiety, depression, and somatic and vasomotor symptoms improvedfNo3iiiC
[46]Pilot study/case seriesHot flashes in patients with prostate cancer25; 22; none55% treatment for hot flashesNo3iiiC
[9]Nonconsecutive case seriesNight sweats, hot flashes in patients with cancer6; 6 acupuncture; noneSymptoms improvedYes (not specified)3iiiC
[51]Nonconsecutive case seriesVasomotor symptoms for breast and prostate cancer194; 194; none79% showed 50% or greater reduction in hot flashesNo3iiiC
[49]Nonconsecutive case seriesVasomotor symptoms for prostate cancer17; 14; noneDecreased hot flashesYes (androgen ablation therapy)3iiiC
[50]Prospective case seriesHot flashes and night sweats54; 50; noneDecreased hot flashes and night sweats and improved physical and emotional well-beingYes (Tamoxifen)3iiiC
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Last Updated: February 25, 2014
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