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The Use Of Complementary And Alternative Medicine (CAM) By Irish Patients With Breast Cancer.

D. M. Graham, N. A. O'Connor, J. McCaffrey, D. N. Carney

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259 Background: Worldwide, the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) has greatly increased over the last decade. CAM use has been shown to be higher in cancer patients than among the general population and is known to be prevalent in patients with breast cancer. The aim of this study was to investigate the prevalence of CAM use among Irish breast cancer patients; something which has not previously been examined. Methods: An anonymous cross-sectional survey was offered to all patients attending for treatment of malignancy or cancer-care follow-up at a single Irish Cancer Centre over an 8-week period. The reasons for CAM use and those factors that increase the likelihood of CAM use were also investigated. A subset analysis of patients with a diagnosis of breast cancer was performed. Results: A total of 230 questionnaires were distributed. 193 patients responded. Of these, 5 were excluded due to lack of demographic data. Of the 188 surveys available for analysis, 91 respondents (49%) had a diagnosis of breast cancer. Thirty-five breast cancer patients (39%) reported having used CAM. This was not significantly different from other cancer types. Of those patients with breast cancer who used CAM, 11 (12%) commenced CAM use following their cancer diagnosis. Respondents who were under 40 (p=0.005), single (p=0.023) and currently in employment (p=0.001) were more likely to use CAM. The most common reason cited for CAM use was to improve physical well-being (46%) and 78% reported a benefit. No patients reported adverse effects from CAM use. The most commonly used therapies were massage/reflexology (58%), relaxation therapy (61%) and herbal teas (58%). CAM medication therapies were used by 31% CAM users, of whom 32% had not informed their doctor. Conclusions: CAM use is prevalent among Irish breast cancer patients. Use of CAM is more common in young, single, employed patients, in keeping with similar studies in other countries. A significant proportion use CAM medications, which may potentially interact with prescribed treatment. Of note, almost one third of these patients do not inform their doctor. This underlines the need for physicians to ask about CAM use in all patients being treated for breast cancer.