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Med Anthropol Q. 1999 Jun;13(2):214-22.

Complementary and alternative medicine use among women with breast cancer.

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  • 1Department of Anthropology, History, and Social Medicine, University of California at San Francisco, USA.


The legacy of 19th-century social theories applied to the study of non-mainstream treatment use continues to affect contemporary research into complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Quantitatively based studies of CAM use have been hindered by the lack of an adequate lexicon, inaccurate characterizations of the people who use CAM, and underestimates of the prevalence of usage. Results from a qualitative prospective cohort study challenge previous stereotypes by indicating that CAM usage does not increase dramatically with the initial diagnosis of cancer and that younger women are more likely to use CAM than older women. Qualitative research methods are uniquely appropriate for obtaining accurate information about health practices that, despite growing acceptance in some areas of society, are still viewed as outside of the mainstream.

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