Breast Cancer Research and Treatment

, Volume 116, Issue 2, pp 387-396

First online:

Complementary and alternative therapies among very long-term breast cancer survivors

  • C. L. CarpenterAffiliated withCenter for Human Nutrition, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, University of California at Los Angeles Email author 
  • , P. A. GanzAffiliated withJonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center and School of Public Health, University of California at Los Angeles
  • , L. BernsteinAffiliated withDepartment of Cancer Etiology, City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center

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Breast cancer patients may have different complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) usage rates and may turn to CAM for different reasons than healthy adults. CAM has mostly been studied in recently diagnosed women; no studies have included survivors 10 years post-diagnosis. We examined very long-term breast cancer survivors to determine whether CAM users had dissimilar patterns of association with survivorship factors. Interviews of 374 breast cancer case patients from a population-based case–control breast cancer study of young women from Los Angeles County, California, during the 1980s occurred at follow-up; 371 patients with complete information were included. CAM represented 28 herbal remedies. Quality-of-life originated from the Medical Outcomes Study Short Form 36 questionnaire (SF-36). Higher rates of CAM (59%) usage occurred compared to nationwide estimates. CAM users resembled non-users on follow-up age, exercise, original disease, treatment, smoking, body-mass index, alcohol, and fear of recurrence. CAM users had a higher prevalence of medical co-morbidities (P = 0.0005), and scored significantly lower on the SF-36 emotional well-being subscale than non-CAM users (P = 0.01). CAM users and non-users did not differ on the SF-36 physical sub-scale. Very long-term breast cancer survivors who use CAM may have poorer emotional functioning and more medical problems than non-users.


Breast neoplasms Complementary therapies Survivors