Background: To analyze the characteristics and outcomes of women with breast cancer in the Northern Alberta Health Region (NAHR) who declined recommended primary standard treatments.
Methods: A chart review was performed of breast cancer patients who refused recommended treatments during the period 1980 to 2006. A matched pair analysis was performed to compare the survival data between those who refused or received standard treatments.
Results: A total of 185 (1.2%) patients refused standard treatment. Eighty-seven (47%) were below the age of 75 at diagnosis. The majority of those who refused standard treatments were married (50.6%), 50 years or older (60.9%), and from the urban area (65.5%). The 5-year overall survival rates were 43.2% (95% CI: 32.0 to 54.4%) for those who refused standard treatments and 81.9% (95% CI: 76.9 to 86.9%) for those who received them. The corresponding values for the disease-specific survival were 46.2% (95% CI: 34.9 to 57.6%) vs. 84.7% (95% CI: 80.0 to 89.4%).
Conclusions: Women who declined primary standard treatment had significantly worse survival than those who received standard treatments. There is no evidence to support using Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) as primary cancer treatment.