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The Breast Cancer and Herbal Dietary Supplement Study

Mark Kantor at University of Maryland
Study abstract

Conventional cancer treatments are often associated with unpleasant side effects, leading many patients to integrate complementary and alternative medicine treatments with their standard therapies. One such commonly used and relatively inexpensive modality is herbal dietary supplements (HDS). However, little information is available regarding the types of HDS used by breast cancer survivors, the perceived effectiveness of HDS, and adverse reactions associated with its use, such as interactions between HDS and prescribed drugs. We are investigating the knowledge, attitudes, and use of HDS among breast cancer survivors 18+ years of age. In particular, we are interested in how breast cancer survivors perceive the effectiveness of HDS; the frequency, duration and reasons for use; and where they obtain information about these products. A questionnaire containing both open-ended and force-choice questions was developed, pre-tested, and modified as appropriate and posted online at The protocol and the survey instrument, which takes about 15-20 minutes to complete, were approved by the University of Maryland IRB. Thus far we have obtained responses from approximately 80 subjects. Data will be analyzed to asses perceived effectiveness of HDS in alleviating side effects associated with conventional treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation. We also will determine if there are response differences among sample subgroups and if correlations or relationships exist between use of HDS and sources of information about these products. We expect our results will provide useful information to breast cancer survivors who are interested in using HDS as part of their treatment.

Study review

This study at the University of Maryland is examining the use of herbal dietary supplements by breast cancer patients.
The researchers were looking to enroll at least 500 volunteers. The Call to Action for this study was sent to Army of Women members on November 13, 2009. The researchers were able to close enrollment on November 14, 2009, after the Army of Women provided them with 1,282 women who were interested in enrolling in the study.