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Acupressure eased persistent fatigue in breast CA.


SAN ANTONIO-Self-administered acupressure focused on enhancing relaxation significantly reduced persistent fatigue in breast cancer survivors, according to a randomized clinical trial presented at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

"Self-administered relaxation acupressure offers an inexpensive, easy-to-learn method to manage fatigue and co-occurring poor sleep quality and overall quality of life in breast cancer survivors with persistent fatigue," said Suzanna M. Zick, N.D., MPH, of the department of family medicine, and the complementary and alternative medicine research center at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She conducted the study because persistent fatigueis arguably the most common and debilitating symptomexperienced by breast cancer survivors, affecting 30% of women for up to 10 years after they've completed their breast cancer therapy. Yet treatment options remain limited, she said.

Acupressure is a form of traditional Chinese medicine in which pressure is applied to a few specific acupoints on the body using the fingers, thumbs, or a device. Two forms were evaluated in the three-arm, single-blind clinical trial: relaxation acupressure, traditionally used to improve sleep, andstimulation acupressure, which targets pressure points that boost energy.

Ms. Zick presented a 10-week study of 288 breast cancer survivors who had completed cancer therapy other than hormone treatment at least 12 months before and who still experienced persistent fatigue as defined by a score of 4 or more on the validated Brief Fatigue Inventory. Participants were randomized single-blind to usual care as directed by their physician or to 6 weeks of relaxation or stimulation acupressure, which they administered on their own after receiving instruction. After 6 weeks,women were instructed to stop the acupressure. They were reassessed at week 10 to determine whether acupressure had a sustained carryover effect.

At 6 weeks, 66% of the relaxation acupressure group and 61% of the stimulation acupressure cohorthad achieved a normal Brief Fatigue Inventory score of less than 4, as did only 31% of the usual-care controls. Both acupressure groups showed maintenance of benefit at week 10, after 4 weeksof no acupressure, indicating the self-treatment isn't something patients need to do continuously in order to derive the desired effect.

While both forms of acupressure were similarly effective at reducing complaintsof fatigue, there was an important difference betweenthe two. Only relaxation acupressure resulted in significant improvement in sleep qualityas measured on the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index. Moreover, relaxation acupressure but not stimulation acupressure resulted in quality-of-life improvements on the somatic, fitness, and social support subscales of the Long-Term Quality of Life scale. However, neither form of acupressure had a significant on the spiritual subscale, the quality-of-life instrument's fourth subscale.

"We really have to conclude that even though both forms of acupressure reduce fatigue to a similar extent, relaxation acupressure is the one we should think about as being more effective," according to Ms. Zick, in her presentation.

One might have predicted, incorrectly as it turns out, that breast cancer survivors complaining of persistent fatigue would find stimulation acupressure tobe more beneficial than relaxation acupressure. Ms. Zick suspects the two techniques might reduce chronic fatigue via different mechanisms. She and her coinvestigators have conducted brain imaging studies that show patients with persistent cancer-related fatigue have three neurochemical markers: elevated brain levels of insular glutamate, which causes excitation, as well as high brain levels of creatine phosphokinaseand proinflammatory cytokines. In their next round of imaging studies, the investigators plan to see whetherthe two forms of acupressure have differing effects on this markers.

Session moderator Dr. Norah Lynn Henry liked the concept of self-administered acupressure.

"The great thing about this is you don't have to make appointments with an acupuncturist. You can do it at home. But is acupressure ready for prime time in clinical practice?" asked Dr. Henry, a medical oncologist at the University of Michigan. "My answer is yes," Ms. Zick replied, "because it's got pretty much zero side effects, it's inexpensive, and it's easy to learn. If it doesn't work for a person then they can just stop, but if it works, great."

Her clinical trial was funded by the National Cancer Institute. She reported having no financial conflicts.


Fatigue affects 30% of breast cancer survivors for up to 10 years after they've completed their cancer therapy.

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Title Annotation:ONCOLOGY
Author:Jancin, Bruce
Publication:Family Practice News
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 15, 2016
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