Health beliefs and alternative medicine: A qualitative study of breast cancer patients

Patrick J. Brown, Patricia A. Carney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Background and Methods. To explore beliefs among patients who use alternative medicine, the authors interviewed 20 female breast cancer patients for their perceptions of health, illness, and medical care. The participants had used either conventional therapies alone (conventional group, n = 11) or conventional with alternative therapies (unconventional group, n = 9). Results. Beliefs about the cause of illness were similar between groups, whereas beliefs about recovery showed greater variation. In addition, the patients in the unconventional group perceived their beliefs to be recently formed and chiefly influenced by their cancer experiences, while the patients in the conventional group felt that their beliefs were 'lifelong' and influenced primarily by upbringing. Conclusions. Beliefs about health and illness represent an evolving process related to changes in the way patients understand their illnesses over time. Discussing patients' beliefs in the clinical setting may help physicians better understand patients' choices with regard to medical care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)226-229
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Cancer Education
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1996
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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