Posted by: themossreports | October 31, 2010

Overcoming Side Effects of Tamoxifen

A new study has found that traditional acupuncture can help relieve the adverse side effects of the commonly used drug, tamoxifen. Fifty participants with early breast cancer completed eight traditional acupuncture treatments. Eligible women had been taking tamoxifen for at least six months, and reporting at least four incidents of hot flashes and night sweats per 24 hours for at least three months. Acupuncture reduced the frequency of these unpleasant side effects by half (49.8 percent) in 30 weeks, when the experiment ended. There were beneficial effects as late as 18 weeks after the end of treatment. The women also experienced improvement in fear and anxiety, loss of memory and concentration, menstrual problems, sexual behavior, sleep problems, etc. Dr. Beverly Devalois and her colleagues in Middlesex, UK, concluded that these results compared favorably with other studies on relieving the side effects of tamoxifen. The women “enjoyed improved physical and emotional well-being.” They called for further research.

I would be interested in hearing from readers on what treatments and self-help measures they have found useful in combating the adverse side effects of tamoxifen.

de Valois BA, Young TE, Robinson N, McCourt C, Maher EJ. Using traditional acupuncture for breast cancer-related hot flashes and night sweats. J Altern Complement Med. 2010;16(10):1047-1057.



  1. I have HER2-Positive breast cancer – both sides – had bi-lateral mastectomy, 1 yr Herceptin and my oncologist put me on Femara instead of Tamoxifen. I suffer the same side effects you mention. Perhaps I try acupuncture for Femara side effects?

    • Ask your physician if you can try another option. My pathology was different, however, initially, I was subscribed Arimidx and it cause severe bone pain. I asked for another option. I am now on Aromasin which is tolerable. Regardless of the drug you are on, without a doubt, be open to acupuncture. I’m a nurse and cancer coach! Remember, do your due diligence to find the right fit for you! And… don’t forget about walking at least 30 minutes a day to help manage side effects! I know we don’t feel like it under the circumstance but do it anyway!

    • I too am on Femara. I found acupuncture to provide some relief from finger stiffness and pain. I was unable to bend my thumbs without them painfully locking. I can now. I went for about 12 treatments.

  2. Beyond the post treatment benefits… it is the benefits that come using acupuncture during chemo that provides the most benefit as the side effects are most significant. I integrated acupuncture during chemo and found tremendous relief vs the initial treatments in which I did not utilize the modality. I consulted with you, Dr. Moss, for stage III br ca caused by colbalt treatment for late stage hodgkin’s disease in 1976 when I was given 3 months to live at 14 years of age. The breast cancer in 2007 induced due to mediastinal colbalt in 1976. To attack the br ca I used every integrative modality such as IV mega doses of vit C, acupuncture, etc… possible. Acupuncture is beyond effective on every level of mind, body & spirit level. It needs to be mainstream integrative protocol for cancer treatment and covered by insurance without question. Best, Tina Brannon

  3. the daily dose of tamoxifen can be reduced without losing effects (see article Puglia “Low doses tamoxifen”). I experimented loss of sleep and very low blood pressure as well and acupuncture was not helpfull for this even if it has given beautiful results for nausea, hotflash and pain due to the radiotherapy.

  4. I used acupuncture through out the first year after my surgery, mostly for relaxation and to improve my energy. When I heard about the possible beneft for reducing the side effects from tamoxifen, I asked my acupuncturist to focus on this, but it seemed to have no effect. I continued to have several hot flash episodes per day and worse at night (10 -12 sessions) along with many other symptoms. Though I’m not recommending this to others, after much deliberation and after two years on tamoxifen, I choose to stop taking it. My quality of life was more important to me and it has changed drastically. I was also concerned about the (apparently small) possibility of uterine cancer. A year later, so far so good on all counts!

  5. I want to add to this response that I also use Iscador (injections 2 x per week, no side effects
    and I take considerably high doses of Vitamin D orally. Both have been proven effective in boosting the immune system.

  6. I am a licensed acupuncturist and I did a year-long fellowship at St Vincent’s Cancer Care Center in Manhattan (it’s now under Beth Israel Hospital). We did acupuncture on patients undergoing chemo and radiation and the results were amazing! I went into the job knowing some of the powers of acupuncture and after seeing patient after patient have so many benefits – both physical and psycho-emotional – I was convinced of its efficacy in treating side-effects, etc.

    Anyone who is undergoing these strong, aggressive western medical treatments must be as strong and aggressive in supporting the body’s immune system, health and wellbeing. Acupuncture is extremely effective.
    Therese Sibon, New York

  7. I was not fortunate enough to discover the benefits of accupuncture during the time I was on Tamoxifen. However, I have found it to be tremendously helpful for reducing the frequency and intensity of the hot flashes, and especially the night sweats, that I’ve suffered after hysterectomy and oophorectomy. Due to my ER+ BC history, the only traditional medicine alternative offered to me at that point were antidepressants, so I elected to try accupuncture instead. I have been very pleased with the results. I look forward to reading the study you have linked.

  8. I had terrible hot flushes etc when taking Tamoxifen. Whilst taking it I decided that I wanted to lose some weight and the Montignac Method was being promoted. This diet can be googled and combines foods, using foods with a low glycaemic index. It promotes healthy eating and suggests that it also helps various medical problems [although not hot flushes].
    After a few days, with no cheating, I discovered that I had lost a pound or two, but, more importantly, had had my first full night’s sleep in ages and the hot sweats, flushes etc had disappeared! This was a totally unexpected and I could only put it down to my changed eating pattern. From then on, as long as I kept to the diet I had no problems. If I reverted to normal eating then the flushes would come back, but only after a week or so.
    I didn’t always keep to the eating plan but I felt in CONTROL.
    It only took a few days for me to know that the eating plan worked in controlling the side effects of Tamoxifen.
    Hope this information is of use.

  9. I was told by my oncologist to NOT do anything to stop my hot flashes.
    I have started doing foot bath therapy called ionizing. Not sure if it is working, I’ve only had two, but I thought I’d try.

  10. I was diagnosed with breast cancer 14 years ago this week. After a lumpectomy and radiation, I was put on Tamoxifen. The hot flashes were intense. I also had a visual problem during this time (retinal bleeding into my eye) which I felt was related to the Tamoxifen, though my oncologist pooh-poohed that possibility, saying that this sort of side effect was very rare with the drug.

    Aside from those, I sought relief from the hot flashes. One oncologist said I would have gotten them ANY TIME I STOPPED TAKING ESTROGEN, and even if I was 80 years old, I would experience menopause, but that doctors somehow failed to mention that little detail when putting menopausal women on that to “help them through the change.” My general practitioner put me on a small dose of Clonodine(.2 mg), a blood pressure medicine, and that stopped the hot flashes.

    However the Clonodine also made me a danger to myself and others — I could fall asleep in the twinkling of an eye, any time of day or night, and worried about driving, as a result. I did not know what was causing it — feared narcolepsy was my new fate — until a resident oncologist told me it was probably the Clonodine and I should just take it at night before bedtime instead of during the day! That solved everything.

    Intensification of all the other symptoms which occur when every speck of natural estrogren is squeezed out of the body have continued to this day.

    As for the Clonodine, I still take it. It helps with my blood pressure and is a welcome sleep aid for this night owl. I don’t know if the hot flashes would come back if I stopped.

    In retrospect, if I had it all to do all over again, I would NOT have taken HRT, since I believe it enabled the cancer to grow, and I would NOT have taken Tamoxifen, either. I am now VERY distrustful of the pharmaceutical industry, and I believe we court disaster when it comes using synthetic chemicals and messing with Mother Nature.

  11. Two years ago I had a lumpectomy and radiation for early stage estrogen positive breast cancer, then started Tamoxifen. I only took Tamoxifen for three months and had to go off it because of terrible side effects; hot flashes, night sweats, blurry vision, depression, bone pain. I researched a supplement I heard about called DIM, which is made from the cabbage family. It detoxes the bad estrogens from your body. I have felt great on DIM and plan to continue taking it forever.

    • Sharron,

      Where can I research DIM?

      Thanks for sharing…

      Be well…

  12. The DIM I take is from BioResponse. They are the ones that did all the studies. Just google BioResponse DIM and you will get lots on information.

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