Acupuncture Reduces Fatigue, Anxiety, Depression in Some Breast Cancer Patients

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


According to data from a randomized, placebo-controlled trial recently published in Cancer and led by researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, the use of EA in patients with early-stage breast cancer who have experienced joint paint related to aromatase inhibitors (AIs) produced a significant improvement in fatigue, anxiety, and depression.


The benefits of EA were seen as soon as 8 weeks after initial treatment. This is the first research to demonstrate efficacy of EA for the common symptoms of depression, anxiety, and fatigue. This study is a follow up to research from November 2013 that indicated EA could decrease joint paint in approximately 50% of patients with breast cancer who were taking AIs, the most commonly prescribed medications to prevent the recurrence of breast cancer in post-menopausal women with early-stage, hormone receptor–positive disease.


Although AIs are very effective, the side effects can affect quality of life and the joint pain caused by AIs is believed to lead to anxiety, sleep disturbance, fatigue, and depression. Researchers theorize that these side effects can lead to nonadherence, and previous studies have shown that nonadherence to AIs can lead to a higher change of death.


This study gives oncologists a better understanding of how symptoms like fatigue and psychological distress relate to pain in patients with AI-related joint pain and indicates that EA may be an effective treatment for a number of patients who experience these symptoms.

Studies suggest acupuncture benefits patients with cancer, but limitations exist
Use of EA produces significant improvements in fatigue, anxiety and depression.

Use of electroacupuncture (EA) -- a form of acupuncture where a small electric current is passed between pairs of acupuncture needles -- produces significant improvements in fatigue, anxiety and depression in as little as eight weeks for early stage breast cancer patients experiencing joint pain related to the use of aromatase inhibitors (AIs) to treat breast cancer.

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