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Acupuncture vs. tamoxifen-induced hot flashes. (Pilot Study).

EXETER, ENGLAND -- Acupuncture was associated with a reduction in the frequency and severity of hot flashes in women being treated with tamoxifen for breast cancer.

In a pilot study 47 women with a primary diagnosis of breast cancer and a good prognosis who had been taking tamoxifen for at least 6 months and were experiencing hot flashes and night sweats underwent eight sessions of acupuncture treatment at weekly intervals, Beverley de Valois said.

Participants in the study kept diaries chronicling the frequency and severity of their hot flashes and responded to a validated women's health questionnaire regarding physical and emotional well-being, Ms. de Valois said at a symposium on alternative and complementary therapies sponsored by the universities of Exeter and Plymouth. "Our working hypothesis was that there would be a 50% reduction in the frequency of hot flashes in 30% of the women," she said.

"By the conclusion of the treatment period we slightly exceeded that, with 36% of participants reporting a reduction of more than 50% in their hot flashes," said Ms. Valois, who is a research acupuncturist at the Lynda Jackson Macmillan Centre, Mount Vernon Hospital, Northwood, England. An additional 53% reported some improvement, though less than 50% improvement, giving a total of 89% experiencing some improvement.

At 1-month follow-up, 87% continued to report improvement.

The mean reduction in hot flashes was 42% at the end of the eight treatments and 34% at 1-month follow-up, she said.

Physical and emotional well-being also benefited, with significant improvements seen in vasomotor and somatic sympton-is, sleep, and anxiety Ms. de Valois said.

Longer-term benefits are being evaluated. At baseline there was an enormous variation in the number of hot flashes per day, with an average minimum of 3.62 per day an average maximum of 33 per day and a mean number of 10.75 per day, the acupuncturist said, "This confirmed that when you're looking at hot flashes you need to look over a period of time, rather than on any specific day" she said.

The treatment protocol involved evaluation of the women based on the precepts of traditional acupuncture. Acupuncture points used in the study aimed at counteracting the effects of tamoxifen included lung meridian 7, kidney meridian 6 and 7, spleen meridian 6, and heart meridian 6.

According to traditional Chinese medicine, the lung meridian is distributed along the medial aspect of the arm and hand, while the kidney meridian is distributed from the medial aspect of the legs to the abdomen, chest, and throat. The spleen meridian encompasses the anterior medial aspect of the leg, through the abdomen and chest, and the heart meridian is located along the middle of the medial aspect of the arm ("Chinese Medicine," New York, Thunder's Mouth Press, 1997).
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Author:Walsh, Nancy
Publication:Internal Medicine News
Date:Mar 1, 2003
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