Acupuncture Reduces Painful Side Effects of Breast Cancer Treatments

New research shows that this ancient medicine can treat cancer's side effects.

ByABC News
September 22, 2008, 6:05 PM

Sept. 22, 2008— -- A new medical study finds that acupuncture, an ancient form of healing that has been around for thousands of years, is as good as, or better than modern medicine in helping ease the side effects of breast cancer treatment.

The findings, which were presented today at the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology's annual meeting in Boston, suggest that this ancient therapy can give cancer patients a wide range of benefits above modern medicine.

Cancer treatments, like chemotherapy, which kills breast cancer cells, can wreak havoc on a woman's body, throwing many into menopause with severe symptoms.

"I got about two hot flashes an hour," said Susan Azar, 43, a breast cancer survivor. "Very intense ones where you would break out in a sweat."

The "conventional" remedy for Azar's chemotherapy-induced hot flashes is a daily anti-depressant. But these pills can produce side effects of their own, including dizziness, nausea and constipation.

In an effort to find a way to alleviate some of chemotherapy's symptoms, Azar enrolled in a clinical trial to receive acupuncture once or twice a week, for 30- to 45-minute sessions.

"Two to three weeks into the study, you start to notice the hot flashes, the intensity and the frequency would decline," Azar said.

Acupuncture, an ancient Chinese therapy, practiced for thousands of years, uses very thin needles to reduce pressure at specific points. Most patients do not feel any pain from the needles.

Most women in the study said they saw the same dramatic effect from the acupuncture treatment as Azar did.

"Acupuncture is equal to drug therapy in decreasing hot flashes," said Dr. Eleanor Walker at the Henry Ford Hospital and lead author of the study. And even better, she said, it has no side effects.