Alternative Treatments, Chemo Use May Be Linked

Breast cancer complementary and alternative treatment use may affect women's decision to use chemotherapy

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Anyssa Garza, PharmD

(RxWiki News) Alternative treatments can be great for women with breast cancer, but they might get in the way of chemotherapy use, a new study found.

This Mailman School of Public Health study, published recently in JAMA Oncology, found that women with early-stage breast cancer who used multiple types of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) were less likely than women who did not use CAM to start chemotherapy for their cancer.

The researchers behind this study reached their findings by looking at a group of 685 women with early-stage breast cancer. Some of these women were advised to start chemotherapy, while others received a discretionary recommendation.

Around 89 percent of the women who were advised to start chemotherapy did so within one year. For women who received a discretionary recommendation, that figure was much lower: 36 percent.

Most of the women in this study reported CAM use. Types of CAM included dietary supplements and mind-body self practices.

Among women who were advised to receive chemotherapy for their breast cancer, the use of dietary supplements and the use of multiple CAM types were tied to a lower likelihood that they would initiate chemotherapy, these researchers found. However, these researchers did not find a relationship between chemotherapy initiation and the use of mind-body practices.

The researchers did not find a link between CAM use and the initiation of chemotherapy in those women who had received a discretionary recommendation.

These researchers noted that other explanations could play a role, but, at face value, it appeared that using multiple types of CAM may affect a woman's decision to start chemotherapy, a potentially lifesaving cancer treatment.

The National Cancer Institute and a Department of Defense Breast Cancer Center of Excellence award funded this study. One study author disclosed serving on the board of a nonprofit that focuses on macrobiotics.

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Review Date: 
May 12, 2016
Last Updated:
May 19, 2016