Your cancer treatment plan may also benefit from supplemental, alternative therapies. Each patient’s treatment plan differs to suit their unique needs, and it is important to discuss alternative types of therapy with your cancer care team before utilizing them.

Patients undergoing cancer treatment often experience not only pain and discomfort from their disease, but also the potentially debilitating side effects caused by their treatments. They may want more than anything to feel better while fighting their disease and turn to dietary supplements advertised as having anticancer effects or being supportive of general health, frequently without consulting a health care professional.

Some herbal medicines and dietary supplements interact with chemotherapy or radiation therapy, causing potentially life-threatening effects. These effects are due to pharmacokinetic interactions—what happens when biologically active compounds in an herb alter the way a chemotherapy drug is absorbed, distributed in the body, metabolized, or eliminated. These interactions can happen for many reasons, including interference with the enzymes in the liver that normally break down the drugs, or interactions with the transporters that carry drugs across cell membranes. St. John’s Wort, garlic extract, and Echinacea are examples of commonly used herbal products thought to pharmacokinetically interact with chemotherapy drugs.

We encourage patients to discuss supplemental therapies with their physician team before taking anything to prevent severe side effects from occurring.

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