Investigators from SWOG – the global cancer clinical trials network funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) – conducted a randomized trial to test whether acupuncture is effective in alleviating pain caused by aromatase inhibitors, a common treatment for hormone sensitive breast cancers.
Patients got twice-weekly treatments for six weeks, then a weekly maintenance treatment for another six weeks, reporting on their pain before, during and after treatment. The results showed that, on average, patients experienced less pain on the acupuncture arm compared with the sham and treatment-free arms, with patients experiencing relief for 24 weeks.
Tom Beattie, Health Information Officer at Breast Cancer Now, said:
“That acupuncture significantly reduced joint pain caused by aromatase inhibitors in breast cancer patients is an intriguing finding, and one that warrants further investigation in larger-scale clinical trials.
“Side-effects of breast cancer treatment can be extremely gruelling, and whilst research into developing new therapies for patients is vital, it is also important that research tackles other aspects of the disease, to ensure that those who sadly receive a breast cancer diagnosis are able to maintain a good quality of life.
“It is reassuring that patients’ needs beyond treatment are being increasingly recognised, and we look forward to further studies focused on improving quality of life for breast cancer patients.
“We know many women find complementary therapies helpful in coping with the side-effects of treatment, and we’d encourage anyone considering these to discuss it with their breast care team first.”