Thursday, January 7, 2010
Cheryl Cole Gets Even Hotter!
Aside from skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women, and the second leading cause of death in women. The American Cancer Society estimates that the chance of a woman getting breast cancer at some point during her life is slightly less than 1 in 8, and the chance of dying from breast cancer is about 1 in 35. However, as a result of early detection and vast improvements in treatment over the past two decades, breast cancer death rates have been decreasing. Today in America, there are more than 2.5 million survivors.
Although each person’s treatment will be slightly different, it most often involves some combination of surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy, followed by five years of hormone therapy and drugs like tamoxifen, which counters the effects of hormones. These treatments often cause uncomfortable and sometimes debilitating side effects, including decreased sexual desire and in younger women, early menopause—hot flashes, night sweats and mood swings. Venlafaxine, an antidepressant drug also known as Effexor, has been the treatment of choice for women undergoing breast cancer treatments, but it comes with its own set of side effects: dry mouth, decreased appetite, nausea and constipation. However, researchers say there is another option for these patients; one that works as well as drugs, without the side effects—acupuncture.
Previous studies have shown that acupuncture can reduce hot flashes in healthy postmenopausal women. So, researchers decided to find out if it could also benefit premenopausal women being treated for breast cancer. “We need something that’s accessible that doesn’t add adverse effects,” said Dr. Eleanor Walker, division director of breast services in the department of radiation oncology at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. For the study, 50 women with breast cancer were randomly chosen to receive either 12 weeks of acupuncture (twice a week for four weeks then once a week) or daily Effexor. They were followed for a year.
Initially, both groups experienced a similar reduction (about 50 percent) in hot flashes, depression and other menopausal symptoms as well as improvement in mental health. But two weeks after treatment stopped, hot flashes increased in the antidepressant group but remained minimal in the acupuncture group. It wasn’t until three months after the last treatment that hot flashes began to return for those receiving acupuncture. Additionally, about 25 percent of women receiving acupuncture reported better sex drive and many reported increased energy and clearer thinking. Adverse effects, including nausea, headache, difficulty sleeping and dizziness were reported by the antidepressant users, whereas no adverse effects were reported with acupuncture. “Acupuncture offers patients a safe, effective and durable treatment option for hot flashes, something that affects the majority of breast cancer survivors,” Walker said. “Compared to drug therapy, acupuncture has benefits, as opposed to more side effects.”