BACKGROUND: Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use has become increasingly popular among patients with cancer. The purposes of this study were to compare the QOL in CAM users and non-CAM users and to determine whether CAM use influences QOL among breast cancer patients during chemotherapy.
METHODOLOGY: A cross-sectional survey was conducted at two outpatient chemotherapy centers. A total of 546 patients completed the questionnaires on CAM use. QOL was evaluated based on the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) core quality of life (QLQ-C30) and breast cancer-specific quality of life (QLQ-BR23) questionnaires.
RESULTS: A total of 70.7% of patients were identified as CAM users. There was no significant difference in global health status scores and in all five subscales of the QLQ C30 functional scales between CAM users and non-CAM users. On the QLQ-C30 symptom scales, CAM users (44.96±3.89) had significantly (p = 0.01) higher mean scores for financial difficulties than non-CAM users (36.29±4.81). On the QLQ-BR23 functional scales, CAM users reported significantly higher mean scores for sexual enjoyment (6.01±12.84 vs. 4.64±12.76, p = 0.04) than non-CAM users. On the QLQ-BR23 symptom scales, CAM users reported higher systemic therapy side effects (41.34±2.01 vs. 37.22±2.48, p = 0.04) and breast symptoms (15.76±2.13 vs. 11.08±2.62, p = 0.02) than non-CAM users. Multivariate logistic regression analysis indicated that the use of CAM modality was not significantly associated with higher global health status scores (p = 0.71).
CONCLUSION: While the findings indicated that there was no significant difference between users and non-users of CAM in terms of QOL, CAM may be used by health professionals as a surrogate to monitor patients with higher systemic therapy side effects and breast symptoms. Furthermore, given that CAM users reported higher financial burdens (which may have contributed to increased distress), patients should be encouraged to discuss the potential benefits and/or disadvantages of using CAM with their healthcare providers.
* Title and MeSH Headings from MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.