Acupuncture and Hot Flashes
Hot flashes often accompany chemotherapy and/or hormonal therapy. Women who are still mensturating at the time of diagnosis and beginning treatment frequently are thrown into sudden, early menopause. Women who had already been through menopause frequently re-experience hot flashes as treatment begins (what a bonus!). There is a huge range in how problematic hot flashes are, ranging to mildly warm moments to intense-sweat-running-down-your-red-face experiences.
A recent study by Dr. Eleanor Walker in the Journal of Radiation Oncology found that acupuncture was as effective as low dose anti-depressants (a common treatment for hot flashes) for women undergoing breast cancer treatment.
My own experience has been that acupuncture is often helpful for many problems related to treatment. I have known women who regularly had acupuncture treatments the day of or the day after each chemotherapy treatment. They have reported real benefit with reduction of nausea and fatigue.I have known others who had treatments periodically to help with anxiety and a general sense of well-being. It is gratifying to see studies that prove the value of this ancient Eastern medicine.
There is often expressed worry about the use of supplements, vitamins, or special diets for women in treatment. Our doctors, who generally don't know details of these products, worry about possible negative interactions with chemotherapy or other medications. This is a real and serious concern. Acupuncture, however, can't possibly hurt. If this is an appealing possibility to you, ask your doctor, social worker or nurse for suggestions of acupuncturists in your area. If they don't know, ask other women.