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A Primer re Herbs and Supplements

Posted 5/4/2015

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  I know that I write fairly often about herbs and supplements and other kinds of complementary therapies (CAM). In self defense, this is a topic that comes up almost daily in my office, so I assume that it is a topic of high interest to many people. When I come across something new or especially helpful, I try to share it with you.

  ASCO's Cancer Net has excellent patient education materials. This primer about herbs and supplements is no exception; it is the short and complete summary. Here is the start and a link:

5 Things You Should Know About Herbs and Supplements
 · Amber Bauer, ASCO staff

A 2008 study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology reported that between 14% and 32%
of people with cancer start using supplements after their diagnosis. People with cancer often
use dietary and herbal products to boost their health, improve their nutrition, or reduce side
effects associated with treatment. Unfortunately, fewer than half of oncologists discuss the risks
and benefits of supplement use with their patients, according to survey results published in
Although many people see herbs and supplements as "natural" and these products are
available in any grocery store, there are important things to know before you consider taking

1. No dietary or herbal product can cure cancer.
Many drugs used as part of chemotherapy are derived from plants and have been thoroughly tested in clinical trials. On the other hand, very few oral herbal supplements have undergone rigorous scientific testing. When supplements are used instead of standard treatments for cancer they are called alternative treatments. However, there really are no alternatives to standard cancer care.


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