Breast Cancer Research and Treatment

, Volume 116, Issue 2, pp 387–396 | Cite as

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



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 



Complementary and alternative medicine




Medical Outcomes Study Short Form 36 questionnaire


National health interview survey


Mental component summary scale


Physical component summary scale


Metabolic equivalent energy expenditure


Odds ratio



The authors appreciate the study participants who generously shared their experiences about surviving breast cancer with us. We are grateful to our study interviewer, Kay Vaage, who unfortunately passed away in 2007, for her selfless devotion to those she interviewed. The research was supported by the National Cancer Institute, contracts PC-67010, grants CA44546 and CA17054. Dr. Carpenter was supported by a training grant, CA09492, and a new investigator award, 1 P01 CA 4271, both from the National Cancer Institute. Dr. Ganz was supported by an American Cancer Society Clinical Research Professorship. Results were originally presented at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, December, 2007.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Human Nutrition, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLAUniversity of California at Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center and School of Public HealthUniversity of California at Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA
  3. 3.Department of Cancer EtiologyCity of Hope Comprehensive Cancer CenterDuarteUSA

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