Relaxation training helped relieve hot flashes in women undergoing treatment for breast cancer, according to a study published in the April edition of Journal of Pain and Symptom Management (2008; 35 , 397–405). Medical professionals who care for women with a history of breast cancer are interested in nonpharmaceutical alternatives for treating patients who suffer from severe hot flashes. A few small studies had previously shown that relaxation helped women with hot flashes, but the authors of the current research felt a larger study focusing specifically on breast cancer patients was needed.
Scientists from the School of Nursing and Midwifery at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom recruited 150 study participants for a randomized, controlled trial. Subjects in the relaxation group received one training session with a therapist, were provided with an audiotape and were instructed to practice daily for 1 month. Control group members received no instruction. All participants kept track of hot-flash symptoms in a diary.
After 1 month, members of the relaxation group reported fewer severe hot flashes and less distress. At the end of 3 months, however, the treatment group and the control group showed no significant differences. Study authors recommended that future research be conducted on how to enhance the positive effects of a relaxation practice and how to identify which groups of women might benefit most from this approach to managing hot flashes.