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Acupuncture helps hot flashes in prostate cancer patients

Acupuncture may be enlisted to help prostate cancer patients who experience hormone-induced hot flashes, according to a study in the April 2011 issue of the International Journal of Radiation Oncology.
Men with metastatic prostate cancer are often treated with either surgery or hormone therapy to reduce the level of testosterone, which otherwise promotes the growth of the tumor. The problem is that these patients often experience hot flashes as some women do during menopause.
Hot flashes can be treated with certain drugs like antidepressants, which can unfortunately cause side effects including nausea, dry mouth, sleeplessness, abnormal appetite and sexual changes, according to a press release by the American Society for Radiation Oncology, the publisher of the journal.
Hani Ashamalla, M.D., a radiation oncologist of New York Methodist Hospital and colleagues tested acupuncture therapy in 14 men who started with a hot flash score averaged at 28.3 to see how effective the ancient Chinese medical tool could be in reducing hot flashes.
Study patients received two 30-minute courses of acupuncture therapy per week.  After a 4-week treatment, the hot flash score was 10.3. After six weeks of treatment, the score dropped to 7.5 and after eight weeks, it was lowered to 7.
"Our study shows that physicians and patients have an additional treatment for something that affects many men undergoing prostate cancer treatment and actually has long-term benefits, as opposed to more side effects," said Ashamalla.
"We are now designing a randomized clinical trial to further evaluate acupuncture after prostate cancer treatment. I encourage men suffering this symptom to talk to their doctors about enrolling."
Early studies have shown that acupuncture therapy also helps relieve hot flashes in breast cancer patients who receive hormone therapy.
Eleanor Walker, M.D. of Henry Ford Hospital and colleagues reported a study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology in 2010 saying that acupuncture worked better than drug treatments at reducing hot flashes and night sweats in breast cancer patients who were on hormone therapy, which is indicated to prevent recurrence.
For the study, the researchers gave 50 breast cancer patients either acupuncture twice a week for the first four weeks and once a week afterwards until eight weeks or venlafaxine, a drug indicated to relieve hot flashes, in a dose of 37.5 mg per night for the first week and 75 mg for another 11 weeks.
Initially both drug treatment and acupuncture were equally effective, leading to a reduction of 50 percent in hot flashes and depression.
The difference is, women who stopped acupuncture therapy continued to experience less hot flashes while those on the drug therapy experienced intensified hot flashes.
Additionally, of those who used acupuncture, 25 percent increased their sex drive.

David Liu and editing by Denise Reynolds