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I don't know exactly how this is meant to work, but I thought I'd like to pose a question--

What about supplementation? I can't really get any definitive answers on that topic except when I went to a complementary medicine center, and then they were all for them, but of course wanted me to spend about $400.00 a month on their private label stuff.

Everyone is kind of vague on all this--my onc looked at my supplement list the other day, and said, "Well I don't see anything on there that will hurt you."

My breast surgeon said pretty much the same thing. My chest surgeon doesn't even want to have a conversation about it.

So, if all this is taboo, why are the big centers doing clinical trials with celebrex, selenium, etc?

My current dilema is that I was taking vioxx for a cox 2 enzyme inhibitor and also for aches and pains associated with stiff joints and muscles. Well, it's off the market so that is no more. Celebrex has a sulfamonide in it and I had an allergic reaction once to sulfa, so my onc was not enthusiastic at all about giving me a script for that. She did agree to Bextra, but I read on the Bextra website that you shouldn't take it either if you have a sulfa allergy. GRRRR!

So, here's my list:

multi vitamin


fish oil

green tea caps

green earth foods -- algae, etc.

mushroom supplement--to build immune system

vit c



Arimidex (breast cancer drug)

baby aspirin

Is there anything I'm forgetting? And what about this sulfa thing? Any info would be most appreciated. Thank you.


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I am usually pretty vague on this as well because I don't really know if most supplements are helpful, harmful or neither. There unfortunately is little good scientific evidence of benefit of these sorts of things outside of "bench research" - petri dish or lab animal types of studies. Although in theory many of these should be beneficial or at least not harmful, I always refer to this study as a cautionary tale:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/quer ... t=Abstract

So I'd like to say that supplements are at least safe to take but I have to say I don't know for sure.

We clearly need more research into this area. Unfortunately, there is not funding from drug companies who have no vested interest in these types of things and these studies are huge and expensive. Therefore, as usual, need more support from the NIH.

The study in stage I lung cancer with selenium recently reported that selenium is increasing the risk of skin cancer so most of my patients who are enrolled in the study have dropped out because of concern about skin cancer. I think people are nervous about celebrex now because it is so similar to Vioxx, it makes you wonder if we will not be hearing about cardiac problems with it down the road.

So bottom line is, as a "Western" health care provider, I have to look at empircal evidence and there ain't much. Complementary practitioners are not burdened with having to refer to hard science so in many ways can basically recommend whatever they want. Not saying either approach is right or wrong, it is what it is.

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Dr. Joe,

Thanks for you input--this is a tough call for the patient too, as I really need to know I'm doing everything possible to prevent this from coming back, yet there is all kinds of conflicting information out there. Guess I'll just keep doing what I'm doing and not go overboard in any way.

I appreciate your reply-----


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Hi Cindy,

I posted a link a while back to a peer-reviewed series of articles published by the Oncology Nursing Society on herbs and natural products and cancer. You can find the link in this thread: http://lchelp.com/community/viewtopic.php?t=11425.

Studies that I've seen of herbs or other "natural products" (a term I consider misleading) seem to show that most are somewhat helpful or neutral in their effects. Occasionally, a supplement can be harmful. For example, beta carotene, once touted as a cancer preventative agent for its antioxidant properties, has now been shown to worsen outcomes in people with lung cancer. I think the small amount of research that has been done is showing that cancer development and human physiology are so incredibly complex that it is hard for any single agent to make much of a difference. And, sometimes, the ones that we expect to be useful turn out to be harmful.

I don't mean to frighten you, only to remind you to be cautious. Be careful and keeping trying to find all the credible information you can to make well-informed decisions about supplements.

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Thanks for the info--I remember that article from when you posted it before. I don't know--I'm just trying everything I can to keep healthy.

I did just run my list of supps past the onc the other day and she said nothing on my list would hurt me. I couldn't find anything bad in the article that I'm currently taking, and the selenium is 200 mcg per day, and I'm gonna stay with that as it is the dose in my multi-vitamin.

Tough call to make--I know I get a lot of good stuff in the foods I eat because I'm really trying to include all the good things, but I just want some insurance.


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