Electro-Acupuncture More Effective Than Gabapentin in Improving Sleep Quality in Breast Cancer Survivors with Hot Flashes


On November 16, 2015, at the 12th International Conference of the SIO (Society for Integrative Oncology) in Boston, Massachusetts, Dr. Sheila Garland, PhD, presented results from a comparative-effectiveness study of electroacupuncture and Gabapentin for sleep disturbances in breast cancer survivors with hot flashes. Dr. Jun J. Mao, MD, MSCE, Principal Investigator for this study and president of the SIO, was also in attendance.

As many breast cancer patients know, hot flashes are periods of intense body heat causing flushing, sweating and heart palpitations that can last for minutes. Though hot flashes occur throughout the day, they become most problematic at nighttime, causing sleep and mood disturbances, daytime fatigue, and poorer overall physical and mental health. Current treatments for hot flashes include acupuncture and the drug Gabapentin. This study, entitled “Electro-Acupuncture vs. Gabapentin for Sleep Disturbances in Breast Cancer Survivors with Hot Flashes: A Randomized Trial”, compares the effectiveness of these two treatments in improving sleep quality in breast cancer survivors experiencing bothersome hot flashes.

As you may remember from September’s blog post, Dr. Mao’s published study indicated electroacupuncture is more effective than sham acupuncture, Gabapentin, or placebo pills in relieving hot flashes in breast cancer survivors. The study Dr. Garland presented builds on those results, comparing how well acupuncture and Gabapentin improve sleep quality in breast cancer survivors suffering hot flashes.

Conclusions drawn from the results of this study show acupuncture is as good as, if not better than, Gabapentin in improving quality of sleep in women with breast cancer. Acupuncture may also be a viable treatment for patients who do not wish to take medication. Larger studies are required to replicate these results and to continue confirming acupuncture as an effective treatment option for improving sleep in breast cancer patients suffering hot flashes.