In a study published December 28, researchers at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit have demonstrated that acupuncture can effectively help women tolerate the side-effects of anti-estrogen treatment.

For the first time, a major cancer publication -- the Journal of Clinical Oncology -- has reported a randomized study that demonstrates the effectiveness of acupuncture. 50 women who had undergone chemotherapy and were receiving hormonal replacement treatment were randomly separated into two groups. One group received three months of treatment with an antidepressant, venlafaxine, which is usually prescribed to diminish debilitating vasomotor symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats. The other women received acupuncture sessions twice a week for the first four weeks, and then once a week for the remaining eight weeks. (In other words, both groups were treated for a total three months).

The results showed clearly that acupuncture is just as effective as the medication. Both options cut the patients' hot flashes and depressive symptoms by one half. Moreover, acupuncture had fewer side effects and more beneficial effects extending well-beyond the study's defined goals.

First, the regular practice of acupuncture decreased symptoms for a much longer period than the medication. Three months after cessation of treatment, the women who had received acupuncture said they still had fewer hot flashes; women in the medication group said their symptoms returned as soon as they stopped treatment.

Moreover, the women who had been treated with acupuncture said they had a stronger sex drive, a greater feeling of well-being and more mental clarity. Women treated with the medication said they experienced the side-effects often cited with some anti-depressants: nausea, dry mouth, confusion, anxiety.

Eleanor Walker , MD, division chair of breast services in the Department of Radiation Oncology at Henry Ford Hospital concludes that acupuncture treatment should be considered to reduce the side effects of anti-estrogen treatments for cancer.


Walker EM, Rodriguez AI, Kohn B, Ball RM, Pegg J, Pocock JR, Nunez R, Peterson E, Jakary S, Levine RA., Acupuncture Versus Venlafaxine for the Management of Vasomotor Symptoms in Patients With Hormone Receptor-Positive Breast Cancer: A Randomized Controlled Trial. J Clin Oncol. 2009 Dec 28.