Real and sham acupuncture lowers breast cancer side effects

Real and fake acupuncture were shown to reduce breast cancer drug side effects. Credit: Colourbox
Real and fake acupuncture were shown to reduce breast cancer drug side effects.
Credit: Colourbox

Do acupuncture’s health benefits start in the mind? That seems to be the case according to a new study from the University of Maryland’s Greenebaum Cancer Center, published in CANCER, a journal of the American Cancer Society. They found that patients receiving both real and sham acupuncture treatments experienced alleviated side effects of drugs they were taking for breast cancer.

Researchers recruited 47 people taking aromatase inhibitors, a type of drug that blocks the enzyme that blocks estrogen in postmenopausal women, for the study. Participants received either real or fake acupuncture treatments over eight weeks. Both groups reported fewer side effects from their drugs afterwards, especially hot flashes, but otherwise, there wasn’t much difference in the benefits felt by those who received the real acupuncture and those who didn’t.

“It could be that there is no difference, or it could be that in this small trial we just didn’t have enough patients to detect a significant difference,” says Dr. Ting Bao MD, DAMBA, MS, who led the study. But, the fact that no patient experienced significant side effects from the acupuncture treatments (real or fake) means that the procedure could be a good option for treating cancer patients, side effect-free.


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