Giving breast cancer survivors a stellate-ganglion block —an injection into the nerves of the neck which regulates temperature—could provide these patients with long-term relief from both hot flushes and sleep deprivation.
These are the conclusions of authors of a pilot study in an article published early online and in the June edition of The Lancet Oncology.
Hot flushes are a frequent and serious side-effect of drug treatments for breast cancer. In survivors of breast cancer taking anti-oestrogen medications, hot flushes can even contribute to cancer recurrence by discouraging compliance with treatment programmes.
Data show that more than 50% of such patients might be non-compliant after 180 days.
Dr Eugene Lipov and Dr Jay Joshi, of Advanced Pain Centers, Hoffman Estates, Illinois, USA, and colleagues did a pilot study of 13 survivors of breast cancer with severe hot flushes. Each was treated with stellate-ganglion block.
After treatment the total number of hot flushes decreased from a mean of 79.4 per patient per week (pppw) before the procedure to a mean of 49.9 pppw during the first 2 weeks after the procedure. This number continued to decrease in weeks 3–12, and stabilised at a mean of 8.1 hot flushes pppw. The number of very severe hot flushes decreased to near zero by the end of week 12.
Night awakenings decreased from a mean of 19.5 pppw before the procedure to a mean of 7.3 pppw during the first two weeks after the procedure and continued to decrease over the remaining follow-up period and stabilised at a mean of 1.4 pppw.