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Real and Fake Acupuncture Relieve Side Effects of Breast Cancer Drugs

A new study reported in Cancer suggests that both real and fake acupuncture could help mitigate the postmenopausal symptoms of breast cancer drugs. 

Researchers conducted a small, randomized trial with 47 breast cancer survivors who were taking aromatase inhibitors, a type of hormonal therapy for breast and ovarian cancer that blocks the production of estrogen in body tissues to prevent cancer from recurring. All of the patients were suffering from stiffness and joint and muscle pain as side effects of the therapy. 

About 50% of the patients received eight weekly acupuncture treatments, while the remaining patients received sham acupuncture. The fake acupuncture involved the use of nonpenetrating, retractable needles that were placed in nonacupuncture points. 

All of the patients kept a symptom diary and answered questionnaires that measured the extent to which the side effects of the aromatase inhibitors interfered with patients’ daily life activities, including work, leisure activities, sleep, mood, concentration, sexuality, relationships with others, enjoyment of life, and overall quality of life. The patients also self-reported the severity of the side effects. 

The results of the study revealed that both groups of patients showed significant improvements in the severity of their side effects as well as a reduction in interference with their daily life activities. The researchers found no significant difference in the benefits between real acupuncture and the fake acupuncture. Neither acupuncture treatment had any side effects. According to the researchers, more research is needed involving a larger group of patients to further determine the benefits of acupuncture for patients with breast cancer.

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