Age-Old Treatment Eases Hot Flashes
The treatment could be a better option for women who enter early menopause because of chemotherapy and cannot be treated with an estrogen-replacement medication, said Dr. Eleanor Walter, radiation oncologist and lead author of the study.
Doctors have been prescribing the antidepressant -- sold under the name brand Effexor -- for off-label use in alleviating hot-flashes, Walter said. But oral medications are difficult for some breast cancer patients to keep down because of the nausea associated with chemotherapy, and Effexor has a long list of side effects, including constipation.
"My patients were complaining. They were sick of taking pills. Wasn't there something I could do?" she said.
In the three-year study, which included 47 women who were menopausal because of cancer therapy, half received venlafaxine, and the other half, acupuncture. For one year, the women filled out a log with the number and severity of hot flashes before, during and after the 12-week treatment.
Both groups reported fewer and weaker hot flashes and reduced depression. But the venlafaxine group reported multiple side effects; the acupuncture group reported none, Walker said. The study, funded by the Susan G. Komen Foundation, will be presented at the 50th annual American Society for Radiation and Oncology Association meeting this week in Boston.