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Could Acupuncture Relieve Breast Cancer Treatment Pain? New Study Shows Positive Results

For centuries, acupuncture has been used as an effective stress and pain reliever. It’s no wonder the practice has gained an active following throughout the world. Recent research is now showing that acupuncture can be used to relieve the joint pains commonly experienced by patients undertaking cancer treatment.

A little less comfortable

The most commonly used treatment for breast cancer, specifically the hormone-sensitive kind, are aromatase inhibitors. Despite their effectiveness, they inadvertently result in side effects such as joint stiffness, pain, and arthralgia.

Acupuncture has been around for thousands of years and was practiced by civilizations in the ancient world

As a matter of fact, arthralgia occurs in nearly half the number of people that take these inhibitors. In some extreme cases, the condition can be so severe that it can cause the patients to give up and drop the treatment altogether.

Acupuncture coming into play

This being the case, research has been done so as to find a way for the effect of these drugs to be minimized, so that cancer patients can be more able to tolerate the drugs, and therefore improve their chances of survival with the treatment.

For years, it has been known that acupuncture plays a vital role in curing quite a number of diseases. However, its role in reducing pain relief and providing a placebo effect has always been a big mystery. As a matter of fact, there hasn’t been any scientific proof, prompting a recent study to be carried by Dr. Dawn L. Hershman together with his team to figure out the connection.

The study in question consisted of 226 postmenopausal women in the United States who were in the early development stage of breast cancer. All the patients were experiencing arthralgia as a result of taking the aromatase inhibitors.

Science is on the verge of determining whether or not acupuncture can provide pain-relieving effects, especially for women with breast cancer

During the study, the participants were divided into three groups; control, acupuncture, and sham acupuncture. Of note is that the sham acupuncture group were given a somewhat similar treatment to the acupuncture group, with the only difference being that the needles used were much thinner and had a lesser penetration range through the skin.

The patients in the acupuncture groups had two sessions every week for 6 weeks straight, then followed by one week sessions for six weeks.

Results of the study

To determine the results of the study, the Brief Pain Inventory (BPI) was used, which determined the amount of pain experienced in a 24 hour period. The BPI itself had a scale starting from 0-10, with 10 being the highest pain factor. All the women had an average pain mark of 3 prior to the trials beginning.

Interestingly, at the six-week mark, it was observed that the BPI score for the women had dropped an impressive 2.05 points, with that of the sham acupuncture dropping 1.07 points, and 0.99 for that of the control group.

By the 12th week, it was observed that the average BPI score for the acupuncture group was significantly less than that of the two groups.

Conclusively, though some benefits were observed, the study still leaves plenty of questions unaccounted for; so much so to the point that the observed improvements could not be recorded as of clinical importance.

That being said, due to the benefits improved, the study has paved way for more decisive trials to be carried out moving forward.

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