Breast Cancer Patients Turn to Supplements

Breast cancer survivors are turning to alternative therapies like supplements and vitamins to ease recovery, but researchers say they may be making uninformed choices.

Research funded by the U.S. Department of Defense finds 57 percent of women are using complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies, and biological-based therapies like nutritional supplements and vitamins are the most popular among women recovering from breast cancer.

Gwen Wyatt, of Michigan State University’s College of Nursing, investigated which types of CAM therapies — including massage, supplements and reflexology — are used the most often and why. Categories she examined included biological, mind-body, manipulative and body, energy and alternative medical systems.

She found the sicker a woman is, the more likely she is to use multiple therapies, and biological-based therapies were the most popular. The next most popular types were mind-body therapies using audiotapes, video therapy and music therapy. Results also show women without at least some college education were less likely to use CAM therapies.

“Women are using these therapies, but they have little education about safety and efficacy,” Wyatt was quote as saying. “One report indicates up to 80 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer are using CAM therapies … They could really benefit from information on how to make a wise decision and choose the best therapies.”

Source: Nursing Research, February 2010

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