Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) has gained popularity among cancer patients in the past years. For this study, CAM includes any group of health care systems, practices or products that are not considered to be part of conventional medicine at present (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine). The present study assessed patterns of CAM use in breast cancer patients in Europe. The study used a descriptive cross-sectional design, and data were collected through a 27-item questionnaire. The sample, which was part of a larger study, consisted of 282 breast cancer patients from 11 countries in Europe. Among participants, 44.7% used CAM since their diagnosis of cancer. The most common therapies used included herbal medicine (46.4%) and medicinal teas, relaxation techniques, spiritual therapies, homeopathy and vitamins/minerals. Younger patients with higher education and who had received combination treatments for their cancer in the past were more likely to use CAM. High levels of satisfaction were reported, with only 6.5% of the women reporting no benefits from the CAM used. Main sources of information about CAM were mostly friends/family and the media. Findings suggested that a high proportion of breast cancer patients used CAM, which may have implications for the clinical management of these patients.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Ashikaga T, Bosompra K, O’Brien P, Nelson L (2002) Use of complimentary and alternative medicine in breast cancer patients: prevalence, patterns and communication with physicians. Support Care Cancer 10:542–548
Boon H, Stewart M, Kennard MA, Gray R, Sawka C, Brown JB, McWilliam C, Gavin A, Baron RA, Aaron D, Haines-Kamka T (2000) Use of complementary/alternative medicine by breast cancer survivors in Ontario: prevalence and perceptions. J Clin Oncol 18:2515–2521
Burstein HJ, Gelber S, Guadagnoli E, Weeks JC (1999) Use of alternative medicine by women with early-stage breast cancer. N Engl J Med 340:1733–1739
DiGianni LM, Garber JE, Winer EP (2002) Complementary and alternative medicine use among women with breast cancer. J Clin Oncol 20(18s):34s–38s
Downer SM, Cody MM, McCluskey P, Wilson PD, Arnott SJ, Lister TA, Slevin ML (1994) Pursuit and practice of complementary therapies by cancer patients receiving conventional treatment. BMJ 309:86–89
Eisenberg DM, Davis RB, Ettner SL, Appel S, Wilkey S, Van Rompay M, Kessler RC (1998) Trends in alternative medicine use in the United States, 1990–1997: results of a follow-up national survey. JAMA 280:1569–1575
Ernst E (2000) Possible interactions between synthetic and herbal medicinal products. Part I: a systematic review of the indirect evidence. Perfusion 13:4–6, 8
Ernst E (2000) Herbal medicines: where is the evidence? BMJ 321:395–396
Fisher P, Ward A (1994) Complementary medicine in Europe. BMJ 309:107–111
Ganz P, Desmond K, Leedham B et al (2000) Quality of life in long-term, disease free survivors of breast cancer: a follow-up study. J Natl Cancer Inst 92:42–47
Gertz MA, Bauer BA (2001) Caring (really) for patients who use alternative therapies for cancer. J Clin Oncol 19:4346–4349
Gilbar O, Iron G, Goren A (2001) Adjustment to illness of cancer patients treated by complementary therapy along with conventional therapy. Patient Educ Couns 44:243–249
Graham JG, Quinn ML, Fabricant DS, Farnsworth NR (2000) Plants used against cancer—an extension of the work of Jonathan Hartwell. J Ethnopharmacol 73:347–377
Gray RE, Fitch M, Goel V, Franssen E, Labrecque M (2003) Utilization of complementary/alternative services by women with breast cancer. J Health Soc Policy 16:75–84
Henderson JW, Donatelle RJ (2004) Complementary and alternative medicine use by women after completion of allopathic treatment for breast cancer. Altern Ther Health Med 10:52–57
Jacobson JS, Verret WJ (2001) Complementary and alternative therapy for breast cancer. The evidence so far. Cancer Pract 9:307–310
Kiefer D, Shah S, Gardiner P, Wechkin H (2001) Finding information on herbal therapy: a guide to useful sources for clinicians. Altern Ther Health Med 7:74–78
Lee MM, Lin SS, Wrensch MR, Adler SR, Eisenberg D (2000) Alternative therapies used by women with breast cancer in four ethnic populations. J Natl Cancer Inst 92:42–47
Lengacher CA, Bennett MP, Kip KE, Keller R, LaVance MS, Smith LS, Cox CE (2002) Frequency of use of complementary and alternative medicine in women with breast cancer. Oncol Nurs Forum 29:1445–1452
Molassiotis A, Fernadez-Ortega P, Pud D, Ozden G, Scott JA, Panteli V, Margulies A, Browall M, Magri M, Selvekerova S, Madsen E, Milovics L, Bruyns I, Gudmundsdottir G, Hummerston S, Ahmad AM-A, Platin N, Kearney N, Patiraki E (2005) Use of complementary and alternative medicine in cancer patients: a European survey. Ann Oncol 16:655–663
Morris KT, Johnson N, Homer L, Walts D (2000) A comparison of complementary therapy use between breast cancer patients and patients with other primary tumor sites. Am J Surg 179:407–411
Moschen R, Kemmler G, Schweigkofler H, Holzner B, Dunser M, Richter R, Fleischhacker WW, Sperner-Unterweger B (2001) Use of alternative/complementary therapy in breast cancer patients—a psychological perspective. Support Care Cancer 9:267–274
Rees RW, Feigel I, Vickers A, Zollman C, McGurk R, Smith C (2000) Prevalence of complementary therapy use by women with breast cancer: a population based survey. Eur J Cancer 36:1359–1364
Richardson MA, Sanders T, Palmer JL, Greisinger A, Singletary SE (2000) Complementary/alternative medicine use in a comprehensive cancer center and the implications for oncology. J Clin Oncol 18:2505–2514
Ritvo P, Irvine J, Katz J, Matthew A, Sacamano MA, Shaw BF (1999) The patient’s motivation in seeking complementary therapies. Patient Educ Couns 38:161–165
Shen J, Andersen R, Albert PS, Wenger N, Glaspy J, Cole M, Shekelle P (2002) Use of complementary/alternative therapies by women with advanced-stage breast cancer. BMC Complement Altern Med 2:8
Shumay DM, Maskarinec G, Gotay CC, Heiby EM, Kakai H (2002) Determinants of the degree of complementary and alternative medicine use among patients with cancer. J Altern Complement Med 8:661–671
Smith M, Boon HS (1999) Counseling cancer patients about herbal medicine. Patient Educ Couns 38:109–120
Swisher EM, Cohn DE, Goff BA, Parham J, Herzog TJ, Rader JS, Mutch DG (2002) Use of complementary and alternative medicine among women with gynaecologic cancers. Gynecol Oncol 84:363–367
VandeCreek L, Rogers E, Lester J (1998) Use of alternative therapies among breast cancer outpatients compared with the general population. Altern Ther Health Med 5:71–76
About this article
Cite this article
Molassiotis, A., Scott, J.A., Kearney, N. et al. Complementary and alternative medicine use in breast cancer patients in Europe. Support Care Cancer 14, 260–267 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00520-005-0883-7
- Complementary medicine
- Alternative medicine
- Complementary therapies
- Breast cancer