A 41-year-old woman with breast cancer was referred to the pain management clinic for a course of acupuncture for intense pain following a subcutaneous mastectomy and a latissimus dorsi flap reconstruction.
She was treated with a standard course of acupuncture for breast pain, using paravertebral segmental points, trigger points, plus contralateral LI4 on the non-lymphoedematous arm. She experienced an episode of galactorrhoea six days following the first treatment and during the second treatment. She had not previously lactated for four years. CT and MRI of the brain revealed no focal abnormality.
Acupuncture has been used in to promote lactation in the Traditional Chinese literature using the ‘Tianzong’ acupoint SI11. This acupoint coincided with a trigger point over infraspinatus that was included in the neurophysiologically based acupuncture treatment.
Quantitative analysis has shown an increase in the production of prolactin and oxytocin following acupuncture. These hormones are involved in the synthesis and release of milk from mammary glands respectively. This is the first report of galactorrhoea, in the contralateral normal breast, following acupuncture in a patient with breast cancer.
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