Acupuncture appears to be more efficacious than oral medication for treating hot flashes in breast cancer survivors, according to a new trial that compared acupuncture, sham acupuncture, gabapentin, and a placebo pill. The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Jun James Mao, M.D., an associate professor of family medicine and community health at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and colleagues tested the treatments in 120 women who were breast cancer survivors.

The women were experiencing hot flashes at least twice a day. Thirty women each received either real electroacupuncture or an inactive placebo pill, 32 women got sham acupuncture, and 28 women received gabapentin.

Continue Reading

Acupuncture had the greatest effect on overall hot flash scores at eight weeks, when all interventions ended, followed by sham acupuncture and then gabapentin.

RELATED: Music May Reduce Anxiety Score in Breast Cancer Surgery Patients

At 24 weeks, 16 weeks after treatments ended, acupuncture was still associated with the greatest reduction in hot flashes. But even those who had sham acupuncture or placebo pills had steeper drops in hot flash scores at 24 weeks than those who took gabapentin.

“The placebo effects for both acupuncture and drugs are quite intriguing, as they both seem to persist over time,” Mao told HealthDay. “The magnitude of the placebo effect for acupuncture is bigger than for the drug.”


  1. Mao JJ, Bowman MA, Xie SX, et al. Electroacupuncture Versus Gabapentin for Hot Flashes Among Breast Cancer Survivors: A Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial. J Clin Oncol. [online ahead of print]. 2015. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2015.60.9412.