Electroacupuncture may ease hot flashes, aid sleep in breast cancer survivors

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Approximately 30% to 40% of women with breast cancer report persistent hot flashes and night sweats. A new study conducted by researchers from the United States and Canada indicates that electroacupuncture might provide some relief.

The researchers studied 58 breast cancer survivors who reported sleep disruptions from hot flashes. They randomly assigned half the group to receive electro-acupuncture (the application of a pulsating electric current) and half to take a daily 900-milligram dose of gabapentin (Neurontin), an antiseizure medication frequently prescribed for hot flashes that cause sleep disturbances. At the end of the eight-week study, the electroacupuncture group reported significant improvements in hot flashes. They were also getting to sleep faster, noticing fewer sleep disturbances, and sleeping longer. Moreover, they felt more alert the following day. In comparison, the gabapentin group reported significant improvements only in hot flashes, in sleep disturbances, and in the duration of sleep.

Larger studies are needed, but the results, which were published online Nov. 22, 2016, by Menopause, indicate that electroacupuncture may be an effective alternative for better sleep, not just for breast cancer survivors but for other women troubled by nocturnal hot flashes.