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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 506978, 10 pages
Review Article

The Relationship between Complementary and Alternative Medicine Use and Breast Cancer Early Detection: A Critical Review

School of Population and Public Health, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia, 2206 East Mall, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6T 1Z3

Received 13 September 2012; Accepted 30 November 2012

Academic Editor: R. Govindarajan

Copyright © 2012 Laura C. Dale and Carolyn C. Gotay. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Objective. Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use is prevalent. Concurrently, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide, with early detection techniques widely available. This paper examined the overlap between participation in allopathic breast cancer early detection activities and CAM use. Methods. A systematic review examined the association between breast screening behaviors and CAM use. Searches were conducted on the PubMed, Embase, CINAHL, and NCCAM databases and gray literature between 1990 and 2011. STROBE criteria were used to assess study quality. Results. Nine studies met the search criteria. Four focused on CAM use in women at high breast cancer risk and five on average risk women. CAM use in women ranged from 22% to 82% and was high regardless of breast cancer risk. Correlations between CAM use and breast cancer early detection were not strong or consistent but significant relationships that did emerge were positive. Conclusions. Populations surveyed, and measures used to assess CAM, breast cancer screening, and correlates, varied widely. Many women who obtained allopathic screening also sought out CAM. This provides a foundation for future interventions and research to build on women’s motivation to enhance health and develop ways to increase the connections between CAM and allopathic care.