A new study suggests that electro-acupuncture may be effective in improving sleep quality in women who are suffering from breast cancer. As compared with women who undergo natural menopause, approximately 30 to 40 per cent of breast cancer patients are at a greater risk of experiencing hot flashes, partially as a result of the premature menopause that results from chemotherapy and surgery. Even estrogen deficiency is caused by the use of breast cancer treatments such as tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors. The findings said that these nocturnal hot flashes are among the most problematic because they contribute to poor sleep and increase levels of pain, fatigue, depression and anxiety.
For the study, researchers from The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) in Ohio, US, compared the benefits of using electro-acupuncture to prescribing gabapentin, an anti-seizure medication frequently prescribed to treat sleep disturbances related to hot flashes in 58 breast cancer survivors. Electro-acupuncture is a form of acupuncture where a small electric current is passed between pairs of acupuncture needles. The study showed electro-acupuncture to be better than gabapentin in helping to reduce hot flash severity and frequency and improving overall sleep quality, including falling asleep faster and fewer sleep disruptions. JoAnn Pinkerton, executive director at NAMS said, “This study shows that, for women who need or choose to avoid medications, electro-acupuncture may be an option because it has minimal risks, but blinded controlled trials are needed”.