Acupuncture boon for breast cancer patients

New York: Acupuncture can bring significant improvements in fatigue, anxiety and depression in as little as eight weeks for early stage breast cancer patients, a study shows.

Electroacupuncture (EA) is a form of acupuncture where a small electric current is passed between pairs of acupuncture needles.

It produces significant improvements in early stage breast cancer patients experiencing joint pain related to the use of aromatase inhibitors (AIs) to treat breast cancer.

"Since many patients experience pain, fatigue, anxiety and depression simultaneously, our results provide an opportunity to offer patients one treatment that may target multiple symptoms," said lead author Jun Mao, an associate professor at University of Pennsylvania's school of medicine.

In the eight-week trial, researchers evaluated the short-term effects and safety of EA for AI-related joint pain and other side effects, compared with sham acupuncture (SA) - a non-electric, placebo acupuncture.

Patients receiving EA had a greater reduction in the fatigue score at week eight and the effect was maintained at week 12.

By week 12, patients receiving EA reported a significant improvement in their anxiety score.

Patients in both EA and SA groups reported major improvements in depression scores, the study found.

"We found that acupuncture helped reduce these symptoms and the effects persisted for at least four weeks following treatment," Mao noted.

The findings were published online in the journal Cancer.