Surviving Hot Flashes…After Surviving Breast Cancer

breast cancer survivors. The women were enduring hot flashes at least twice a day.

Thirty women each received real acupuncture that also included a bit of an electric buzz or the inactive placebo pill, 32 women got sham acupuncture, and 28 women received gabapentin (Neurontin). The drug is typically used to treat seizures and nerve pain.

The women documented their hot flashes in diaries, noting frequency and severity, for 8 weeks of treatment, and then continued to keep track of their hot flashes up to 24 weeks total. The investigators used a hot flash score to see how much frequency and severity changed from when the study started to what the women reported at 8, 12 and 24 weeks.

Acupuncture had the greatest effect on overall hot flash scores at 8 weeks, when all interventions ended, followed by sham acupuncture and then gabapentin. At 24 weeks, 16 weeks after treatments ended, acupuncture was still associated with the greatest reduction in hot flashes. But even those who had sham acupuncture or placebo pills had steeper drops in hot flash scores at 24 weeks than those who took gabapentin.

“The placebo effects for both acupuncture and drugs are quite intriguing, as they both seem to persist over time,” Mao said. “The magnitude of the placebo effect for acupuncture is bigger than for the drug.”

The results with the sham acupuncture, which bested gabapentin, suggest that “there is more than a placebo effect with the sham acupuncture,” said Dr. Gary Deng, interim chief of the integrative medicine service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. “There is a

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