Acupuncture Being Used in the Treatment of Pain from Breast Cancer

According to a recent post from Time Magazine entitled, ‘Here’s a Promising Way to Treat Pain in Breast Cancer Treatment,” the power of acupuncture is now being used to reduce drug-related joint pain in patients.

Through the course of breast cancer treatments, the article explains that many patients are often prescribed medications called aromatase inhibitors, which protect against the disease recurring, and can come with difficult to manage side effects including terrible joint pain. But according to research, acupuncture might have the ability to help reduce the pain and make taking the medications more manageable.

The article goes on to explain that one of the remaining on the aromatase inhibitors is important in preventing the disease from going back and yet, according to Dr. Dawn Hershman, professor of medicine and epidemiology at Columbia University and vice chair of SWOG, ““But we know that they don’t work if people don’t take them, and we know the most common people don’t take them is because they develop side effects.”

A study conducted by Hershman and her colleagues examined 226 patients with early stage breast cancer who were divided in to three groups and over 3 months one group received true acupuncture treatment, one “sham” or superficial treatment, and the third group receiving no treatment at all.

Halfway through the study, 58% of the women in the group receiving the true acupuncture reported at least a 50% reduction in their pain levels. Furthermore, twelve weeks after the treatments had stopped, the differences between those that received true acupuncture and those who did not “remained significant.”

This promising result provides hope to patients struggling with pain as a side effect to the potentially life-saving medications, and increase the likelihood they remain on them. The study explains, “Hershman says the findings should give patients and doctors confidence that acupuncture may provide some benefit to women experiencing joint pain due to aromatase inhibitors.”

Acupuncture has long been an alternative treatment method to chronic pain, and as the article supports, “A growing body of evidence suggests that acupuncture may be effective at reducing pain from a variety of sources, and in a variety of populations.”

It continues, “Experts don’t know exactly how it works, but one suggestion is that it may trigger the release of the brain’s natural painkilling chemicals, says Hershman.”