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Use of complimentary and alternative medicine by breast cancer patients: prevalence, patterns and communication with physicians

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This study examined the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies by breast cancer patients and the communication of their CAM use to their physicians relative to lymphedema symptoms and other factors. Breast cancer patients (N=148) in the State of Vermont were interviewed 2–3 years after their primary surgery using computer-aided telephone interviewing methods. Questionnaire items included demographic information, treatment, CAM use, lymphedema symptoms, and other measures. A large proportion (72.3%) reported using at least one CAM treatment after surgery. The most frequently used treatments were vitamins and nonfood supplements (72.3%), with herbal treatments, meditation, and traditional massage each being reported by about one-fifth of the women. Age, education, adjuvant chemotherapy, and extremity swelling were associated with use of more CAM treatments in a regression model. A large proportion (73.8%) of CAM users reported their CAM use to their physicians. Correlations between patients' income, adjuvant radiation therapy, and adjuvant tamoxifen use with communication of CAM use to their physicians were sought in a logistic regression model. CAM use is high among breast cancer patients in Vermont, and the number of CAM therapies used is related to demographic factors, adjuvant treatment, and lymphedema symptoms. Communication of CAM use to physicians appears to be multifaceted.

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Ashikaga, T., Bosompra, K., O'Brien, P. et al. Use of complimentary and alternative medicine by breast cancer patients: prevalence, patterns and communication with physicians. Support Care Cancer 10, 542–548 (2002).

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