- Question from lmarshall: My surgeon has told me to stop all supplements because "they" don't know the effects on the body. I haven't started chemo yet but have heard that some Chinese herbs help relieve some of the symptoms. Should I take the supplements and ignore my surgeon?
Surgeons usually do not advise on supplements. Most doctors would caution you—it's the common conventional approach. If you don't know anything, it's probably safer to tell people not to do anything. If you're not sure, liability-wise, you're safer telling people not to do it. If you tell people to go ahead and do it, you're liable. It's a common logic of physicians to say don't take it, don't do anything.
Of course, there are Chinese herbs that can be used, as I said in the previous question, depending on what symptoms we are referring to. If it's nausea for example, which is common from chemotherapy, then something like ginger is very helpful—ginger tea, ginger candy, even ginger pills. There is nothing that indicates ginger cannot be taken with chemotherapy. Ginger is very well established, and one of the respected herbs for nausea.
So in answer to your question, I would say yes. Maybe I shouldn't, but one can ignore that particular advice of the surgeon and take certain supplements.
- Beth Baughman DuPree, M.D., F.A.C.S. My best advice as a surgeon is to be open with your physician (whether it's your oncologist, surgeon, or radiation oncologist) about the supplements you would like to take. As Dr. Chang says, many times physicians will err on the side of caution and say not to use a supplement, but if the issue is raised in a non-threatening way, you may be able to help your physician understand the benefits that a supplement can have for their patients. Many of the holistic therapies and herbal supplements that I use with my patients were introduced to me by my patients and other colleagues.
- Raymond Chang If you're unsure and your doctor is unsure, I do say that it's perhaps better not to do it. If you're not sure, don't proceed.
The Ask-the-Expert Online Conference called Traditional Chinese Medicine featured Raymond Chang, M.D. and moderator Beth Baughman Dupree, M.D., F.A.C.S. answering your questions about how to discuss Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) with your cancer doctor.
Editor's Note: This conference took place in September 2005.
The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.
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