Natural Therapies for Breast Cancer

When considering natural therapies for breast cancer, it is important to understand what medical or research-based evidence exists that shows which natural therapies are effective and for what circumstances.  While there are many claims made on packages and the internet about herbal formulas, special diets, or new-fangled technologies, the evidence for natural therapies that work to cure breast cancer on their own is paltry, at best.
However, natural medicine truly shines in supporting oncology patients so they have the best results through surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.  The options to reduce adverse effects, improve outcomes, and help cancer patients feel well are diverse.  When used in this way, the goal of natural medicine is to support conventional treatment approaches without interfering its effectiveness and to address concerns as they arise; natural treatments are tailored for each individual set of circumstances.  Here are some examples of my favorite approaches.
Glutamine is an amino acid (protein building block) that high doses helps to improve recovery from surgery and helps prevent nausea, ulcerative lesions in the mouth and digestive tract, and neurological toxicity from some chemotherapy drugs.
Ginger is an excellent and safe way for chemotherapy patients to prevent nausea.  Using capsules, liquid herbal extracts or even lollipops made by a compounding pharmacist are options that support easy compliance for the patient.
Doxirubicin is a common chemotherapy drug that is used to treat breast cancer.  However, one of the most serious adverse effects of doxirubicin is toxicity to the heart.  Coenzyme Q10 and L-carnitine are nutritional supplements that have been shown in medical research to reduce doxirubicin related heart damage without interfering with the drugs ability to kill breast cancer cells.
Another common concern for oncology patients is maintaining their immune function and white blood cell status.  Some approaches that are promising in this area include maitake mushroom extracts, ginseng (a popular Asian herb), ashwaganda (an herb from India), and vitamin E supplementation.
It is clear that natural therapies have a supportive role in cancer treatment.  But, if not used wisely, natural medicine can have negative effects.  For example, studies show that the herb curcumin (turmeric) can decrease the cell-killing effects of some chemotherapy drugs like cyclophosphamide and doxirubicin (both are used in breast cancer treatment).  Other dietary supplements that may reduce chemotherapy effectiveness include coenzyme Q10, glutathione, and cysteine.  The most effective and safest way of using natural therapies is to consult with your oncologist and work with a qualified professional.

Be Well,
Richard

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