Acupuncture Reduce Hot Flushes Due to Hormonal Blockers
Hot flushes are reported by over 80% of women taking tamoxifen and other hormonal blockers. Causing distress and impacting quality of life, they may last the duration of the treatment and beyond. This level of discomfort causes many women to take holidays from, or stop taking altogether, their hormonal treatments and complicate their treatment plan.
Research shows that Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), the main treatment for symptoms of natural menopause, is contraindicated for breast cancer survivors.
Gabapentin, clonidine and anti-depressants (especially venlafaxine) may provide moderate relief but are associated with bothersome side effects. Many women do not wish to use additional medications with their cancer therapies.
What can be done to offer relief?
Acupuncture, practised for centuries throughout East Asia, uses the superficial insertion of fine needles into the body for therapeutic effect.
For over two decades, researchers worldwide have investigated acupuncture to manage hot flushes associated with both natural menopause and the consequences of cancer treatment, with promising results.
The protocol that I support uses five acupuncture needles inserted into the surface of each ear and kept for about 40 minutes. It is a full course of 8 treatments.
Data on over 2285 treatments carried out on over 300 women shows that this approach was very manageable and had good results. There was also a good reduction of anxiety and sleep problems.
So why does acupuncture seem to work?
There are several reasons, including acupuncture's ability to prompt blood vessel dilation in the patient's nervous system, while stimulating the release of endorphins—a neurotransmitter that interacts with brain cells involved in regulating pain and emotion. It also triggers the release of the mood regulator serotonin.
Moon Z, Hunter MS, Moss-Morris R, et al. Factors related to the experience of menopausal symptoms in women prescribed tamoxifen. J. Psychosom. Obstet. Gynaecol. 2017;38(3):226-235.
McCowan C, Thompson AM The importance of nonpharmacogenetic factors in endocrine therapy. Pharmacogenomics 2012;13(6):721-8.
Tran S, Hickey M, Saunders C, et al. Nonpharmacological therapies for the management of menopausal vasomotor symptoms in breast cancer survivors. Support. Care Cancer 2021;29(3):1183-1193.
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