Complementary and alternative therapies: do they improve quality of life for women with breast cancer?

Katherine Bleakley, May Stinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
103 Downloads (Pure)


BackgroundThe growing incidence of breast cancer in women in the UK has inevitably resulted in the expansion of the roles of health care practitioners in breast cancer care. As women with a diagnosis of this form of cancer are increasingly turning to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) with a view, amongst others, to improve their quality of life, health care professionals are beginning to question if there is a place for it in their practice. ObjectivesThe purpose of this study was to review and critically appraise the current research literature to investigate if complementary and alternative therapies improve quality of life in women with breast cancer. Major findingsFollowing a detailed search of nine electronic databases (AMED, EMBASE, Medline, British Nursing Index, PsychINFO, CINAHL, Cochrane Library, OTDBase and Google Scholar) between the years 2000 and 2010, eight relevant studies were identified. Three of these studies focused on CAM as a whole, three on yoga, one on progressive muscle relaxation training and guided imagery and one on therapeutic massage. Out of the eight studies, six concluded that complementary and alternative therapies improved quality of life in women with breast cancer. The remaining two studies presented somewhat equivocal findings, however, did identify scope for future research. Despite this, study limitations were identified across the studies and so caution should be exercised when generalizing the results.ConclusionsThe combined findings of this literature review indicate that there is great potential for complementary and alternative therapies to be increasingly integrated into clinical practice within breast cancer services. However, prior to this, further high quality research is required, including larger and longer term studies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)96-105
JournalPhysical Therapy Reviews
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - Apr 2011


  • breast cancer
  • quality of life
  • complementary and alternative medicine


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