- Question from Wednesday: I want to try natural therapies in conjunction with my traditional treatments, but my doctor is not very receptive. How can I make him understand that I need to know I am doing everything I can to beat this?
Jennifer Griggs, M.D., M.P.H.
It's very common to feel the way you do. You want to do everything you can to improve your outcome. Doctors trained in traditional Western medicine often feel that complementary therapies represent sort of a 'black box.' We don't always feel confident about the safety or efficacy of these therapies. That's probably what you're picking up.
In addition to that, physicians don't want their patients to take anything that might interfere with chemotherapy or radiation therapy. For instance, we usually advise women to avoid antioxidants while undergoing chemo and radiation. Cancer treatments work through oxidation, and protecting cancer cells by taking antioxidants might decrease the likelihood of benefiting from treatment.
Marisa Weiss, M.D.
While you're undergoing conventional therapies, it is important to eat well by following a diet that's full of fruit, vegetables and whole grains. Cut back on fried food and foods containing a lot of fat. To reduce stress levels during treatment, you can try meditation, visualization or yoga, all of which can be can be very helpful and serve to complement conventional therapy.
Things that make doctors uncomfortable include the use of concentrated supplements, vitamins, and herbs. Without solid data that proves their value or their safety when used during treatment, your doctor will probably want you to avoid such things.
- Jennifer Griggs, M.D., M.P.H. It's important to note that some of the complementary/alternative therapies have serious side effects. For example, shark cartilage has been shown to cause severe hepatitis. Gingko, a commonly used supplement, can also cause thinning of the blood. The medical and lay media are full of examples of unregulated drugs causing serious toxicity. On the other hand, you should feel comfortable discussing your ideas and concerns with your doctor, acknowledging the many 'unknowns' that we've just started to address here.
- Marisa Weiss, M.D. You can find out more about complementary treatments in breastcancer.org's Complementary Medicine section.
The Ask-the-Expert Online Conference called The Doctor-Patient Relationship featured Jennifer Griggs, M.D., M.P.H. and Marisa Weiss, M.D. answering your questions about how to find the right doctor for you, and how to create and maintain a good, open relationship with your doctor so you can be sure to get all the care and information you need.
Editor's Note: This conference took place in February 2003.
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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