One-Third of Cancer Patients Use Complementary and Alternative Medicine

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Dallas, TX—The University of Texas (UT) Southwestern Medical Center announced in a press release that one-third of people with a cancer diagnosis use complementary and alternative medicines ranging from meditation to herbal medicine.

Dr. Nina Sanford, assistant professor of radiation oncology, was lead author on the study, titled “Prevalence and Nondisclosure of Complementary and Alternative Medicine Use in Patients With Cancer and Cancer Survivors in the United States,” published in JAMA Oncology. She analyzed data from the National Cancer Database, and found that younger patients and women are more likely to use complementary and alternative medicines, but, she said in the release, 29% of those people did not tell their physicians.

“Unless we know what’s in the supplements,” Dr. Sanford said in the release, “I would recommend patients avoid using them during radiation because there’s likely not data on certain supplements, which could interfere with treatment. With radiation specifically, there is concern that very high levels of antioxidants could make radiation less effective.”

Dr. Sanford added that meditation and yoga are highly recommended. “A common side effect of radiation is fatigue. I let the patients know that the patients who feel the most fatigue are the ones who are the most sedentary and that those who are doing exercise are the ones who frequently have the most energy.”

The release quoted Belindy Sarembock, who said she practiced yoga during treatment for breast cancer. Sarembock noted that she had nerve damage from chemotherapy, and yoga almost immediately took away the pain. “I couldn’t get onto my toes. After the second time of going to yoga, I was able to go onto my toes. I wish I would have known about yoga earlier. It was just such a benefit and helped me so much.”

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