(HealthDay): Some common breast cancer medications may trigger joint pain, but new research suggests that acupuncture may relieve that effect secondary.
The finding could be beneficial for patients with breast cancer, said an oncologist who reviewed the study.
"Acupuncture has been around for thousands of years and has no real drawback," said Dr. Lauren Cassell, chief of breast surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
"If something as simple as acupuncture can improve these symptoms and the quality of life of patients, we will have more women who comply with their medications, and one would expect better results," Cassell added.
The new study was led by Dr. Dawn Hershman, who directs the Breast Cancer Program at NewYork-Presbyterian / Columbia University Medical Center, also in New York City.
Hershman's team followed the results of 226 postmenopausal women with early-stage breast cancer who took medications called aromatase inhibitors.
These medications, which include Arimidex, Femara and Aromasin, among others, are often used to treat women with estrogen-sensitive breast tumors, Hershman said.
But he added that "many patients suffer from side effects that make them lose treatment or stop treatment altogether." We need to identify strategies to control these side effects, the most common of which is pain and stiffening of the debilitating joints. " 19659004] Hershman's team wondered if the ancient practice of acupuncture could help. Of the patients in the study, 110 received real acupuncture, 59 received false acupuncture (needles placed in ineffective places in the body) and another 57 were placed on a waiting list.
Patients in the true and false acupuncture groups underwent sessions twice a week for six weeks, followed by one session per week for six more weeks.
After six weeks, patients in the actual acupuncture group reported much lower pain scores than those in the fake or wait-list acupuncture groups, The Hershman team reported
The study was scheduled for presentation on Thursday at the annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium in Texas.
The finding may mean that women with pain related to the use of aromatase inhibitors may stay longer if acupuncture relieves joint pain, "but we need to conduct more studies to determine if this is really the case, "Hershman said in a press release of the meeting.
Meanwhile, the findings suggest that "health c Doctors should discuss the possibility of acupuncture with patients experiencing joint pain and stiffness related to the aromatase inhibitor, because it has the potential to improve their quality of life, "said Hershman.
Dr. Cynara Coomer runs the Florina Rusi-Marke Comprehensive Breast Center at the University Hospital of Staten Island in New York City. Upon reading the findings, he agreed that "the integration of Western and Eastern medicine is an important way to explore" in breast cancer care.
And with a crisis of opioid addiction affecting the United States, "it is important for doctors to find other means of pain control for our patients," he added.
"This is another study that reveals the benefits of acupuncture in the treatment of pain," said Coomer.
Study findings presented at medical meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
Acupuncture reduced joint pain caused by treatment with aromatase inhibitors in a phase III randomized clinical trial
Lauren S. Cassell, M.D., head of breast surgery, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; Cynara Coomer, M.D., head of breast surgery, director of the Florina Rusi-Marke Comprehensive Breast Center, Staten Island University Hospital, New York City; San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, press release, December 7, 2017
Breastcancer.org has more about aromatase inhibitors.