Prognosis following the use of complementary and alternative medicine in women diagnosed with breast cancer

Prognosis following the use of complementary and alternative medicine in women diagnosed with breast cancer

The purpose of this study was to assess whether CAM use affected breast cancer prognosis in those who did not receive systemic therapy.
Secondary data analysis of baseline/survey data from the Women’s Healthy Eating and Living (WHEL) study. 2562 breast cancer survivors participating in the study completed baseline assessments and a CAM use questionnaire. Cox regression models were conducted to evaluate the use of CAM modalities and dietary supplements on time to an additional breast cancer event (mean follow-up=7.3 years).
A US-based multi-site randomized dietary trial.
Time to additional breast cancer events.
The women who did not receive any systemic treatment had a higher risk for time to additional breast cancer events (HR=1.9, 95% CI: 1.32, 2.73) and for all-cause mortality (HR=1.7, 95% CI: 1.06, 2.73) compared to those who had received systemic treatment. Among 177 women who did not receive systemic treatment, CAM use was not significantly related to additional breast cancer events. There were no significant differences between high supplement users (≥3 formulations per day) and low supplement users in either risk for additional breast cancer events.
The risk for an additional breast cancer event and/or death was higher for those who did not receive any systemic treatments; the use of dietary supplements or CAM therapies did not change this risk. This indicates that complementary and alternative therapies did not alter the outcome of breast cancer and should not be used in place of standard treatment.
Saquib J, Parker BA, Natarajan L, et al. Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 2012 doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2012.04.002

Outcomes of breast cancer in patients who use alternative therapies as primary treatment

Some breast cancer patients opt for alternative treatments in place of conventional treatments. The lack of published data on the outcome of this strategy may contribute to this trend.
A chart review was performed of breast cancer patients who refused or delayed standard surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation therapy. Prognosis was calculated for recommended and actual therapy.
Thirty-three patients were included in the analysis. Of 11 patients who initially refused surgery, 10 developed disease progression. Of 3 patients who refused adequate nodal sampling, 1 developed nodal recurrence. Of 10 patients who refused local control procedures, 2 developed local recurrences and 2 died of metastatic disease. By refusing chemotherapy, 9 patients increased their estimated 10-year mortality rate from 17% to 25%.
Alternative therapies used as primary treatment for breast cancer are associated with increased recurrence and death. Homeopathy instead of surgery resulted in disease progression in most patients. These data may aid patients who are considering alternative therapies.
Chang EY, Glissmeyer M, Tonnes S, et al. The American Journal of Surgery. Volume 192, Issue 4 , Pages 471-473, October 2006

Complementary and alternative medicine in early-stage breast cancer

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) are becoming increasingly popular in many medical situations, particularly among patients with cancer. CAM encompasses a range of modalities including dietary and vitamin supplements, mind-body approaches, acupuncture, and herbal medicines. In contrast to standard chemotherapeutic and hormonal regimens used for the adjuvant treatment of early-stage breast cancer, controlled clinical trials have generated few data on the relationship between CAM and the outcomes of recurrence or survival, or even overall quality of life and safety. The objectives of CAM treatments are manifold: the reduction of toxicities of therapy, improvement in cancer-related symptoms, enhancement of the immune system, and even a direct anticancer effect. The primary basis of CAM rests on empirical evidence and case studies, as well as theoretic physiologic effects. In some cases, laboratory or clinical data lend support to these modalities. Some types of CAM are based on ancient Oriental forms of medicine founded on centuries of experience documented through oral and written text. Nevertheless, the paucity of evidence in the clinical setting limits firm conclusions about the effectiveness or safety of most CAM approaches in breast cancer. This review will summarize the basis for the application of certain CAM modalities in the therapy of early-stage breast cancer and will highlight some of the directions of investigative work that could lead to a rational integration of CAM into conventional adjuvant therapy.
Tagliaferri M, Cohen I, Tripathy D. Seminars in Oncology. Volume 28, Issue 1 , Pages 121-134, February 2001

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