Acupuncture versus medication for pain management: a cross-sectional study of breast cancer survivors

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Abstract

Aim of the study

Breast cancer survivors who take aromatase inhibitors (AI) often suffer from chronic pain. Emerging evidence supports the use of acupuncture as an effective pain management strategy for this condition, but its acceptability among cancer survivors is unknown. We evaluated breast cancer survivors’ preferences for acupuncture as compared with medication use and identified factors predictive of this preference.

Methods

We conducted a cross-sectional study among breast cancer survivors who were currently, or had been, taking an AI. The primary outcome was degree of preference for acupuncture as compared with medication for pain management. We conducted multivariate logistic regression analyses to evaluate the effects of socioeconomic status (SES) factors and health beliefs on treatment preference.

Results

Among 592 participants, 160 (27.0%) preferred acupuncture, 153 (25.8%) preferred medication and 279 (47.1%) had no clear preference. In a multivariate analysis that only included SES, higher education and white race were significantly associated with greater preference for acupuncture. When health beliefs were added, SES effects were attenuated, while greater expectation of acupuncture’s effect, lower perceived barriers to its use, higher social norm (endorsement from family members and healthcare professionals) related to acupuncture and higher holistic health beliefs were associated with greater preference for acupuncture.

Conclusion

We found similar rates of preference for acupuncture versus medication among breast cancer survivors for pain management. Specific attitudes and beliefs predicted such preferences, highlighting the importance of a patient-centred approach to align patient beliefs and preferences with therapeutic options for more effective pain management.

Trial registration number

NCT01013337; Results.

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