The use of complementary therapies by cancer patients is a frequent topic of discussion and study. Many of us have added some form of "extra treatment" to our care and a few women reject Western medicine in favor of other methods. The conservative perspective (which I share) is that it never hurts--and may help--to include treatments that are "body exterior" (things like acupuncture, massage, Reiki, yoga) but that we should be cautious about anything that we swallow. Little is known about the interaction of most herbs and nutitional supplments with chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Most doctors suggest that, if you want to use these, you wait until the standard treatments are done.
A new article by Barrie Cassileth, MD and colleagues addresses this issue. Here is the abstract:
Cancer patients' use of complementary therapies, including massage therapy, acupuncture, mind-body therapies, music therapy, physical exercise, and herbs and botanicals has increased in recent years. In fact, complementary therapies are increasingly integrated into mainstream cancer programs and centers. Randomized controlled studies indicate that many complementary therapies control treatment-related physical and emotional symptoms including pain, fatigue, nausea, xerostomia, anxiety, and depression in both adult and pediatric cancer patients. Importantly, many of these interventions produce long-lasting improvement. Cautions are important, however, regarding the use of herbs, vitamin preparations, and other over-the-counter agents. These may be harmful as many interact with conventional pharmacologic drugs, including chemotherapy, or produce unwanted side effects. A subset of the too-numerous Internet and other sources of information contains accurate information. Cautions and resources for reliable information are given in this chapter to assist physicians in guiding their patients on the appropriate use of helpful complementary therapies as well as the often problematic products that are taken by mouth. (Cancer & Chemotherapy Rev. 2008;4:204-11)
If you want to read more: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/586874