HealthDay News — Acupuncture, whether real or sham, appears to improve patient-reported outcomes among women with breast cancer, researchers report.

Ting Bao, MD, from the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center in Baltimore, and colleagues randomly assigned postmenopausal women with breast cancer (stages 0-3) to receive eight weekly sessions of real accupuncture (23 patients) or sham accupuncture (24 patients) to determine the therapy’s affect on patient-reported outcomes.

Participants were being treated with an aromatase inhibitor and had treatment-associated musculoskeletal symptoms.The findings were published online in Cancer.

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In the real acupuncture arm, the researchers observed significantly improved scores from baseline to week eight on the following measures: Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression scale (P=0.022); hot flash severity and frequency (P=0.006 and 0.011, respectively); the Hot Flash-Related Daily Interference Scale (HFRDI; P=0.014); and National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project (NSABP) menopausal symptoms (P=0.022).

In the sham acupuncture arm, significant improvements from baseline were seen for the European quality-of-life survey (P=0.022), the HFRDI (P=0.043), and NSABP menopausal symptoms (P=0.005). The nine black study participants benefited more from real acupuncture than sham acupuncture in reduction of hot flash severity and frequency scores (P< 0.01 for both) compared with the 38 other participants.

“Both RA and SA were associated with improvement in patient-reported outcomes among patients with breast cancer who were receiving AIs, and no significant difference was detected between arms,” the researchers concluded.


  1. Bao T et al. Cancer. 2013; doi: 10.1002/cncr.28352.