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Be Careful with Complementary Therapies

Posted 12/31/2014

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  This is important. Pay attention. Listen up. If you are actively being treated with chemotherapy or radiation therapy, common (or uncommon) complementary therapies may be harmful. For a long time, the statement has been that possible interactions between vitamins or supplements and chemotherapy drugs/radiation have not been tested. There is now some evidence that they may interfere with the intended treatment effects.

  Taken at normal doses or as part of a regular diet, no harm is likely. The potential risk is the higher doses often recommended by CAM practitioners and taken by cancer patients. Especially those products that contain antioxidants may actively interfere with chemotherapy or radiation.

  Once the active treatment has been completed, this risk is no longer a problem. The suggestions continue to be to tell your doctor(s) what you are taking, hold off on those supplements or vitamins until the treatment has been completed, and to concentrate on "external" CAM therapies while on treatment. These could include acupuncture, Reiki, massage, etc.--anything that you don't ingest is fine.

  This is a short article from The Guardian that describes a report recently presented at the annual oncology meetings in Australia. Very honestly, even if you remain skeptical about this, please think carefully for the duration of your active treatment. If you are willing to take chemo and/or radiation, it seems unwise to do anything that might undermine it.

  Alternative therapies risk effectiveness of cancer treatment, researchers find

The complementary therapies that cancer patients most commonly mention to doctors all potentially jeopardise the effectiveness of conventional treatments such as radiation, chemotherapy and surgery, an audit has found.
The research was presented at the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia (Cosa) annual scientific meeting on Wednesday, and was based on an audit of 462 patient enquiries about alternative therapies received by the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne.
Excluding vitamins and minerals, cancer patients were most interested in fish oil, turmeric, coenzyme Q10, milk thistle, green tea, ginger, lactobacillus, licorice, astragalus and reishi mushroom as additional treatments.
All have predicted or known drug interactions when taken with evidence-based cancer treatments.
The lead researcher of the study and a senior pharmacist at the centre, Sally Brooks, said while the substances were unlikely to cause problems when consumed as part of a healthy diet, complementary medicines contained larger and potentially harmful amounts.
“These products may increase the effects of chemotherapy and put the patient at risk of toxicity, or decrease the efficacy of chemotherapy,” Brooks said.
“Those that contain high levels of antioxidants may interfere with both chemotherapy and radiation therapy.”
Other studies have found associations between earlier death and reduced quality of life for cancer patients who use alternative therapies.

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