When Cybill Shepherd recorded the “Menopause Blues” (it’s on YouTube) in 2004, she crooned about “those hot-flashin’, mood-swingin’” miseries. But we bet she didn’t know that for millions of women with breast cancer (and men with prostate cancer), those symptoms are a direct result of their life-saving treatments. Up to 80 percent of prostate survivors, especially those on hormone-deprivation therapy, and 80 percent of women on tamoxifen for treatment of estrogen-dependent breast cancer experience hot flashes. Oftentimes, they’re bad enough for folks to consider ending their cancer therapy. And antidepressants, anti-seizure medications and anti-anxiety medications commonly prescribed to quell the fire sometimes are ineffective or come with their own serious side effects.
Now for the good news. First, those hot flashes, at least for women taking tamoxifen, are a positive. A five-year study of almost 900 women found that those with hot flashes were less likely to have recurrence of breast cancer than those who stayed cool. And, ta da, electroacupuncture works to tame hot flashes and night sweats more effectively than the often-prescribed anti-seizure drug gabapentin (even sham acupuncture worked better!).
For guys being treated for prostate cancer and others who are getting chemotherapy or radiation treatments that trigger hormone shifts, this treatment is worth a try. The researchers did 30-minute sessions daily for eight weeks and found that even after treatment, at week 24, the women who got EA were staying much cooler. Talk to your oncologist about finding a reliable practitioner in your area.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit www.sharecare.com.