Objectives: Women taking tamoxifen experience hot flashes and night sweats (HF&NS); acupuncture may offer a nonpharmaceutical method of management. This study explored whether traditional acupuncture (TA) could reduce HF&NS frequency, improve physical and emotional well-being, and improve perceptions of HF&NS. DESIGN/SETTINGS/LOCATION: This was a single-arm observational study using before and after measurements, located in a National Health Service cancer treatment center in southern England.
Subjects: Fifty (50) participants with early breast cancer completed eight TA treatments. Eligible women were ≥ 35 years old, ≥ 6 months post active cancer treatment, taking tamoxifen ≥ 6 months, and self-reporting ≥ 4 HF&NS incidents/24 hours for ≥ 3 months.
Interventions: Participants received weekly individualized TA treatment using a core standardized protocol for treating HF&NS in natural menopause.
Outcome measures: Hot Flash Diaries recorded HF&NS frequency over 14-day periods; the Women's Health Questionnaire (WHQ) assessed physical and emotional well-being; the Hot Flashes and Night Sweats Questionnaire (HFNSQ) assessed HF&NS as a problem. Measurements taken at five points over 30 weeks included baseline, midtreatment, end of treatment (EOT), and 4 and 18 weeks after EOT. Results for the primary outcome: Mean frequency reduced by 49.8% (95% confidence interval 40.5-56.5, p < 0.0001, n = 48) at EOT over baseline. Trends indicated longer-term effects at 4 and 18 weeks after EOT. At EOT, seven WHQ domains showed significant statistical and clinical improvements, including Anxiety/Fears, Memory/Concentration, Menstrual Problems, Sexual Behavior, Sleep Problems, Somatic Symptoms, and Vasomotor Symptoms. Perceptions of HF&NS as a problem reduced by 2.2 points (standard deviation = 2.15, n = 48, t = 7.16, p < 0.0001).
Conclusions: These results compare favorably with other studies using acupuncture to manage HF&NS, as well as research on nonhormonal pharmaceutical treatments. In addition to reduced HF&NS frequency, women enjoyed improved physical and emotional well-being, and few side-effects were reported. Further research is warranted into this approach, which offers breast cancer survivors choice in managing a chronic condition.