(Natural News) One of the side effects women undergoing treatment for breast cancer often experience is sleep disturbances related to their hot flashes. While there are available drugs that treat hot flashes, they come with side effects such as weight gain and hormonal imbalance. Research shows that there is a safer treatment option for this: A study reveals that electroacupuncture could help reduce the symptoms of hot flashes, which, in turn, improves sleep.
Hot flashes are sudden, short surges in body temperature, and can be induced by premature menopause because of either the surgical removal of the ovaries or by chemotherapy. Drugs used in cancer treatment affect the hormones, such as tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitors, which can also make hot flashes worse or more persistent.
Published in the journal Menopause, researchers compared electroacupuncture treatment techniques with gabapentin, a drug used to treat hot flashes in cancer patients. They evaluated data from a randomized controlled trial with 58 breast cancer survivors experiencing hot flashes at least twice a day. Participants either received electroacupuncture or gabapentin every day for eight weeks.
Electroacupuncture is a type of acupuncture that uses tiny needles that gently stimulate the skin with an electric current. This provides a sensation similar to what patients describe as a gentle tapping of the skin. Research has shown that electroacupuncture can stimulate the brain to release endorphins and influence the neurotransmitter regulating body temperature called norepinephrine.
Jun Mao, chief of integrative medicine at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, and his team found that electroacupuncture improved sleep quality better than drug intervention. In addition, it produced better outcomes in sleep latency and sleep efficiency. At the eighth week, those who received electroacupuncture also had improved sleep duration, less sleep disturbance, and reduced daytime dysfunction. On the other hand, those in the gabapentin group only experienced improvements in sleep duration and sleep quality. (Related: Effectiveness of Acupuncture After Breast Cancer Treatment.)
While the results are still preliminary, researchers suggest that women with breast cancer may find this integrative medicine technique beneficial.
Other treatment options for breast cancer
People with breast cancer undergoing treatment may also explore other treatment methods, such as detoxification diets, traditional Chinese medicine, and antioxidants, known as complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). CAM treatments can improve side effects, relieve pain, and improve their quality of life.
- Acupuncture: Acupuncture is a CAM treatment that can improve symptoms of breast cancer and side effects of treatment. In addition to hot flashes, studies have shown that acupuncture can relieve fatigue, reduce vomiting, reduce pain, and reduce nausea.
- A special diet: Another example of CAM treatment is adhering to a special diet. While a healthy diet is an important aspect of cancer treatment, whether using traditional methods or CAM, some people with breast cancer may start on a special diet in place of taking anticancer drugs. A special diet restricts the consumption of foods such as high-fat, salt-cured, smoked, and pickled foods, while encourages eating more fruits, vegetables, and plant-based foods.
- Mind-body therapies: Mind-body therapies also help in breast cancer treatment by improving your mind’s positive impact on the rest of your body. Mind-body therapies include aromatherapy, art therapy, labyrinth walking, meditation, music therapy, reiki, tai chi, and yoga. Each of these uses meditative techniques and creative activities that target the mind and body to help improve life quality. Research has reported that these therapies effectively relieve stress, anxiety, and pain.
Read more news stories and studies on the health benefits of electroacupuncture and other alternative treatments by going to HealingArts.news.