Objectives: The use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) by patients with breast cancer and survivors has been widely studied. However, scant research has focused on the degree to which CAM activity is related to the cancer experience, as opposed to use for other reasons. The study objective was to examine the use of CAM in a sample of patients with breast cancer. Additional objectives were to measure associations between psychosocial and medical factors and CAM use both related and unrelated to a breast cancer diagnosis.
Design: Breast cancer survivors (N=115) at least 1 year beyond active medical treatment were recruited during routine clinic visits. Survey data collected via structured telephone interview focused on CAM use, motivations for use, perceived risk of cancer recurrence, and breast cancer-specific and general measures of anxiety.
Results: Sixty-nine percent (69%) of participants reported use of CAM. Of CAM users, 73% reported initiating or changing CAM activity specifically because of their cancer diagnosis. Patients engaging in CAM for cancer-related reasons were younger (p<0.001) and had been diagnosed with cancer at a younger age (p<0.01). Although overall anxiety scores in this sample were not significantly elevated, higher trait anxiety was associated with CAM use related to one's cancer diagnosis.
Conclusions: Rate of CAM use was high, with the majority of CAM users associating that activity with their breast cancer. Anxiety levels varied between nonusers, CAM users for cancer, and CAM users for other reasons, with highest trait anxiety among those who associate their CAM use with cancer. Assessing motivations for CAM use may be important in future examinations of the relationship between CAM use and quality of life among breast cancer survivors.