Research: BROWN and CARNEY,

Listed in Issue 23


BROWN and CARNEY, Department of Community and Family Medicine, Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover New Hampshire explored beliefs regarding perceptions of health, illness and medical care in breast cancer patients who use alternative medicine.



20 female breast cancer patients, who had used either conventional treatment alone (n = 11) or conventional and alternative therapies (n = 9) were interviewed.


Beliefs regarding cause of illness were similar between the groups, but beliefs regarding recovery showed greater variation. Patients in the unconventional group perceived their beliefs to be recently formed and principally influenced by their cancer experiences, whereas the conventional group of patients felt that their beliefs were "lifelong" and influenced primarily by upbringing.


Beliefs about health and illness represent an evolving process associated with changes in the way patients understand their illness over time. Discussing patients' beliefs within the clinical setting may help physicians to better understand patients' choices regarding medical treatment.


Brown PJ and Carney PA. Health beliefs and alternative medicine: a qualitative study of breast cancer patients. J Cancer Educ 11(4): 226-9. Winter 1996.

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