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CAM Use May Affect Breast Cancer Patients’ Chemo Decisions

Findings among women prescribed chemo who took dietary supplements, had higher CAM index score

FRIDAY, May 13, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Women with early-stage breast cancer who utilize complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) may delay recommended chemotherapy, according to research published online May 12 in JAMA Oncology.

Heather Greenlee, Ph.D., assistant professor of epidemiology at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in New York City, and colleagues studied 685 women with early-stage breast cancer, all under the age of 70. Of all the women in the study, 87 percent said they used some type of CAM, most commonly dietary supplements and mind-body practices. Many women used two CAM therapies, and 38 percent used three or more.

In all, 306 women were advised to undergo chemotherapy. After a year, 89 percent of these women had started treatment. Among the other women, for whom chemotherapy was optional, only 36 percent opted for treatment. Use of dietary supplements and high CAM index scores were related to the decision whether or not to have chemotherapy, while the use of mind-body practices was not related to starting chemotherapy. No association between starting chemotherapy and alternative therapy was found among women for whom chemotherapy was optional.

“A cautious interpretation of results may suggest to oncologists that it is beneficial to ascertain CAM use among their patients, especially dietary supplement use, and to consider CAM use as a potential marker of patients at risk of not initiating clinically indicated chemotherapy,” the authors conclude.

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