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Cancer Patients Should Inform Docs of Use of Complementary Medicine

Patients using complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) during their cancer therapy should inform their physicians of their use, so the potential for negative interactions between the two therapies can be minimized. This is according to a study reported in the Journal of Cancer Research and Clinical Oncology.

The frequency with which CAM is used among cancer patients is considerable, with estimates including approximately half of all cancer patients utilizing CAM in some form. At present, CAM is making its way into standard practice, as well, with healthcare providers integrating some forms of CAM into standard therapeutic regimens.

Although CAM is providing benefit to many patients, some practices, particularly if ingested supplementation is used, can interact negatively with certain cancer treatments. Therefore, it is important for patients to discuss their use of CAM with their physicians, to minimize the risks of these potential interactions.

Researchers from Germany recently conducted a clinical study to obtain data regarding the frequency with which CAM is used among cancer patients, as well as the frequency of potential interactions occurring among these patients. For example, some types of CAM can alter the way in which a standard agent is metabolized which deems it less effective, or could potentially exacerbate side effects to a certain organ

The study included 100 women with gynecologic cancers who were treated in Frankfurt, Germany. Patients were given a questionnaire regarding their use of CAM as well as their standard therapies. The researchers evaluated the answers and frequency of known interactions between the two types of therapies.

64% of patients used CAM
One-third “of all patients in this study were in danger of interactions” between CAM and standard therapy
Of the patients who were taking at least one substance-bound CAM (ie, pills, tablets), approximately three-quarters were at risk of interactions between CAM and standard therapy.
The researchers concluded that cancer patients taking CAM are at risk for potential interactions with standard therapies. Since CAM use is fairly common among cancer patients, it is important for patients and physicians to discuss all treatments being used so that optimal care may be administered to each patient.

Reference: Zeller T, Muenstedt K, Stoll C, et al. Potential Interactions of Complementary and Alternative Medicine with Cancer Therapy in Outpatients with Gynecological Cancer in a Comprehensive Cancer Center. Journal of Cancer Research and Clinical Oncology. 2013;139(3):357-365.