Acupuncture may be an effective treatment option for breast cancer patients who are experiencing pain and stiffness due to side effects of commonly used hormone therapies, according to a new study.
Previous research indicated that nearly half of the women who undergo aromatase inhibitor therapy, which is a common treatment for early-stage, hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer, experience some joint pain and stiffness.
For this reason, researchers from the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center at New York-Presbyterian Hospital aimed to identify a non-drug option to manage the symptoms.
In the study, the researchers randomly assigned 43 early breast cancer patients who had reported musculoskeletal pain to receive either true acupuncture or sham acupuncture twice a week for six weeks. They found that the majority of women who were treated with true acupuncture experienced significant improvement in joint pain and stiffness over the course of the study.
Moreover, a total of 20 percent of patients who had reported taking pain medication no longer needed to do so. No significant improvements were reported by those in the control group.
"To our knowledge, this is the first randomized, placebo-controlled trial establishing that acupuncture may be an effective method to relieve joint problems caused by these medications," said lead author Katherine Crew.
"However, results still need to be confirmed in larger, multicenter studies," she added.