Acupuncture provided long-lasting relief from side effects like hot flashes, anxiety and heart palpitations in men who
underwent testosterone treatment for prostate cancer, according to a small study published earlier this month.
For the prospective study, which appears in the April issue of the International Journal of Radiation Oncology*Biology*Physics, researchers from the department of radiation oncology and the acupuncture section of New York Methodist Hospital and Weill Cornell Medical College of Cornell University, also in New York, followed the progress of acupuncture treatment in 14 men experiencing hot flashes following hormone therapy (androgen ablation therapy or AAT) for prostate cancer.
Lead author Dr Hani Ashamalla, a radiation oncologist at New York Methodist Hospital, told the press that:
"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."
The team is now planning a larger randomized clinical trial to further evaluate the effectiveness of acupuncture following prostate cancer treatment.
Most men with metastatic prostate cancer, that is where the cancer has spread from the primary tumor, either undergo surgery or hormone therapy to dramatically reduce their levels of the hormone testosterone, which feeds the cancer.
Unfortunately, for about 50% of patients, the hormone therapy causes uncomfortable side effects, like the hot flashes or hot flushes that women get during the menopause, where the person suddenly feels very hot, sweaty, and their heart starts racing. This can last for several minutes, even half an hour.
The main way to treat these hot flashes is to prescribe antidepressants, but these bring their own side effects, such as dry mouth, nausea, and other problems affecting sexual function, sleep and appetite.
Ashamalla and colleagues assessed each man's hot flash score (HFS) at the start of the study and then at intervals during the treatment and afterwards.
The HFS is a nationally accredited questionnaire-based measure of the discomfort the patient feels from daily hot flashes. The score is a product of the frequency and severity (1=mild, 2=moderate, 3=severe) of the hot flash.
The men received four weeks of acupuncture treatment, comprising twice-weekly sessions lasting half an hour.
The results showed that:
- The mean HFS at the start of the study was 28.3.
- After two weeks of treatment it was 10.3.
- Six weeks after end of treatment it was 7.5.
- And after eight months, it was 7.0.
- Mean clinical improvement at weeks 2 and 6 were 68.4% and 89.2%.
- The clinical improvement after 8 months was 80.3% compared to pre-treatment score.
- There were no side effects, either during, immediately after treatment, or at 8 months.
"Acupuncture provides excellent control of hot flashes in men with a history of AAT."
"The absence of side effects and the durable response at 8 months are likely to be appealing to patients," they added.
They recommended a further prospective randomized study be done to further evaluate acupuncture against established medical therapy.
"Acupuncture for the Alleviation of Hot Flashes in Men Treated With Androgen Ablation Therapy."
International Journal of Radiation Oncology*Biology*Physics, Volume 79, Issue 5, 1 April 2011, Pages 1358-1363
Hani Ashamalla, Ming L. Jiang, Adel Guirguis, Francesco Peluso, Mark Ashamalla
Additional source: American Society for Radiation Oncology.
Written by: Catharine Paddock, PhD