Exploring frontiers: use of complementary and alternative medicine among patients with early-stage breast cancer

Breast. 2014 Jun;23(3):279-85. doi: 10.1016/j.breast.2014.01.009. Epub 2014 Feb 13.


Introduction: Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is increasingly popular among cancer patients but can interfere with conventional therapies; timely data are needed to adapt current patients' care.

Materials and methods: This transversal, prospective study evaluated the use of CAM among patients receiving adjuvant chemotherapy or endocrine therapy for early stage breast cancer. We assessed the prevalence of use, the motivations and predictive factors for use, as well as patients' information needs over a three months period.

Results: 69/184 responders (37.5%) reported using at least one CAM. CAM use was associated with younger age (p = 0.03) and higher education level (p < 0.001). Pharmacological substances (e.g., homeopathy, phytotherapy) were the most commonly used (79.7%) before physical means (42%) and dietary methods (31.9%). A total of 65.8% of users felt that these treatments have demonstrated evidence of efficacy and 74.8% that they were not associated with side effects. The main goal for use was improvement of treatment-related symptoms (28.3%); secondary goal was increasing the general health status (20.5%). Patients reported high needs for information on CAMs. CAM use was associated with mild differences in secondary adverse events reported by patients.

Conclusion: Breast cancer patients are common users of CAM concomitantly to their conventional cancer treatments and should be investigated regarding their current consumption of CAM. Furthermore, they need advice evidence-based data on these treatments and potential interactions with on-going treatments.

Keywords: Anti-oxidants; Breast cancer; Complementary and alternative medicine; Herbs; Phytoestrogens; Vitamins.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Breast Neoplasms* / epidemiology
  • Breast Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Breast Neoplasms* / psychology
  • Breast Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Chemotherapy, Adjuvant / methods
  • Complementary Therapies* / adverse effects
  • Complementary Therapies* / methods
  • Complementary Therapies* / psychology
  • Complementary Therapies* / statistics & numerical data
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions / etiology
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • France / epidemiology
  • Health Literacy*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation*
  • Needs Assessment
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Prospective Studies