Breast Cancer Research and Treatment

, Volume 90, Issue 2, pp 139–148 | Cite as

Complementary and alternative medicine use is associated with an increased perception of breast cancer risk and death

  • Eileen Rakovitch
  • Jean-Philippe Pignol
  • Carole Chartier
  • Michelle Ezer
  • Sunil Verma
  • George Dranitsaris
  • Mark Clemons


Purpose. Complementary and alternative medicines (CAMS) are frequently used by patients with breast cancer and their use may be related to the presence of psychosocial distress. The objective of this study is to assess the presence of anxiety and depression in breast cancer patients who use CAM and assess how they perceive their risks of recurrence and dying from breast cancer compared to non-users.

Methods. Breast cancer patients attending ambulatory clinics at a single cancer center were approached by their oncologist. Participants completed a self-administered survey regarding CAM usage, beliefs associated with CAM, views of their risks of developing recurrent cancer, and of dying of breast cancer. The presence of anxiety and depression was scored using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS). Responses were scored and compared between CAM users and non-users.

Results. A total of 251 patients completed the survey. CAM usage was reported by 43% of patients. Individuals who used CAM were younger [53.1 versus 63.0 year (p < 0.001)], had higher education (p < 0.001), were more likely to have full time employment [25.7 versus 16.3% (p < 0.001)] and have private insurance for medications (76 versus 60%, p=0.007) compared to non-users. CAM users perceived their risk of recurrence (p = 0.011) and death from breast cancer (p=0.0001) as being significantly greater than non-users. There were no significant differences in anxiety or depression scores between CAM and non-users.

Conclusion. CAM use is associated with an increased perception of breast cancer recurrence and of breast cancer-related death. There was no association between the presence of anxiety or depression and CAM use. Improved patient understanding of actual risks of recurrence and death are required such that women will be able to make more informed decisions about using CAMs.


breast cancer complementary and alternative medicines perception of risk 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eileen Rakovitch
    • 1
  • Jean-Philippe Pignol
    • 1
  • Carole Chartier
    • 1
  • Michelle Ezer
    • 1
  • Sunil Verma
    • 2
  • George Dranitsaris
    • 3
  • Mark Clemons
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Radiation Oncology, Toronto-Sunnybrook Regional Cancer CentreSunnybrook and Women’s College Health Sciences CentreOntarioCanada
  2. 2.Division of Medical Oncology, Toronto-Sunnybrook Regional Cancer CentreSunnybrook and Women’s College Health Sciences CentreCanada
  3. 3.Department of Radiation Oncology, Cancer Care OntarioUniversity of TorontoCanada

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