Many patients with advanced breast cancer use herbs and supplements, as well as other treatments like relaxation and massage, to relieve symptoms. However, many patients are taking herbs or supplements that may be harmful or interact with their cancer medications. Most cancer drugs and most foods, herbs and supplements are broken down by the same liver enzyme pathways; a particular example is grapefruit, which therefore interacts with trastuzumab and paclitaxel (among many others). Two supplements that don’t appear to interact with any medications are melatonin and omega-3. Patients should always tell their doctors what supplements and herbs they are taking (and don’t forget to mention grapefruit!). However, it’s a ‘two-way street’, as doctors also need to remain open-minded or their patients will conduct their own research and may reach dangerous conclusions.
BCAC’s Marion Barnett recently attended ABC7 online, an international conference on advanced breast cancer. Here is her report on a talk about integrative medicine given by German breast cancer researcher Rachel Würstlein. Integrative medicine is the combination of medical treatments for cancer and complementary therapies to cope with symptoms and side effects.