When I think of breast cancer and dietary supplements, it takes me back to 1999. At that time, I was a “newbie” to breast cancer survivorship. I was having a conversation with the oncology social worker who facilitated the breast cancer support groups at a large teaching hospital where I was treated. I began to tell her how I wanted to take certain supplements that I thought would strengthen my immune system – I was, at that time, receiving chemotherapy for breast cancer. She listened intently, as she always did, then gently said – “you should talk with your oncologist about it before you do take anything”. I told her I was a little apprehensive to do so, as I wasn’t sure he’d understand my intentions. She said, “yes, he will”. I then asked her how she could be so confident to say that, and she proceeded to tell me it was because my oncologist was her husband!
During the months of receiving chemotherapy, I often did research to better educate myself about nutrition, exercise, and self care. As a registered nurse, I had a good foundation in all those topics, but I learned that “natural” does not necessarily mean it is harmless or good for you. More importantly, things that claim to fight cancer, often are not evidence based.
An excellent resource on herbs and supplements, I was fortunate to find, came from Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York. You can search any item and then read about benefits (if any) and possible risks. It also includes information on alternative treatments (used instead of mainstream therapies – most often unproven and expensive) and complementary medicine (therapies that are used as adjuncts to mainstream cancer care). Click on the” About Herbs” link below to learn more.