Acupuncture Reduces Joint Pain From Breast Cancer Treatment

Researchers at Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC) and NewYork-Presbyterian found that acupuncture was associated with a statistically significant drop in joint pain among women taking aromatase inhibitors, a type of breast cancer treatment. The study was conducted by SWOG, an international cancer clinical trials group funded by the National Cancer Institute. 

As reported by the CUIMC Newsroom, each year, tens of thousands of women with early-stage, hormone receptor-positive breast cancer are treated with aromatase inhibitors—pills that reduce the risk of a cancer recurrence. When taken for five to 10 years, these drugs can increase survival. However, more than half of patients who take them experience side effects such as severe joint pain and stiffness (arthralgia).

“It’s estimated that 50 percent of women who have aromatase inhibitor-associated arthralgia either discontinue or cut back on their medication,” said Dawn Hershman, MD, lead author of the paper, professor of medicine in hematology/oncology at Columbia and leader of the Breast Cancer Program at the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center. “We need strategies to prevent the debilitating side effects that interfere with aromatase inhibitor therapy without causing new side effects.” 

The findings, originally presented in December at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, were published online in JAMA. To read the full article, visit the CUIMC Newsroom.