Every week I work with patients with cancer, many of whom have breast cancer and battle, to a greater or lesser extent, with the side effects of drug therapy. As an acupuncturist I see first hand how effective acupuncture can be in helping to minimise the side effects of chemotherapy and in the case of (some) breast cancer, anti-oestrogen therapy. This latter type of therapy is used for women with hormone receptor positive breast cancer but can cause vasomotor side effects (hot flushes, night sweats, painful sexual intercourse, vaginal dryness) which can be really hard to cope with. Additional medicine can be given to help with these side effects, but they can cause their own side effects. Wouldn’t it be good if there was something that could help that didn’t rely on more drugs?
Step forward acupuncture.
A recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Oncology looked at whether acupuncture reduces vasomotor symptoms and produces fewer adverse effects than venlafaxine – the drug of choice to manage vasomotor symptoms. The study authors concluded that “acupuncture appears to be equivalent to drug therapy in these patients. It is a safe, effective and durable treatment for vasomotor symptoms secondary to long-term antiestrogen hormone use in patients with breast cancer”.
So if you or someone you know is battling with hot flushes, night sweats or other vasomotor symptoms linked to drugs that treat breast cancer, talk to your acupuncturist – it really could make all the difference.