Is it a good idea to take dietary supplements while going through active cancer treatment? It’s a gray area. Some doctors say patients should hold off, at least while undergoing chemotherapy. But some practitioners in complementary or integrative medicine support the use of certain dietary supplements – such as vitamin D, mushroom extracts, green tea and curcumin – in certain cases, saying they may have cancer-fighting properties and reduce treatment side effects.
Research is still evolving, but several points are clear: If used at all, supplements should be taken along with – not substitute for – standard cancer treatment. Also, it’s safer when patients tell their doctors about supplements they use. In return, doctors build more trust when they communicate about dietary supplements with an open, informed, patient-centered approach.
Estimates vary, but studies suggest up to 87 percent of women treated for breast cancer take dietary supplements. In general, the bottom line is that many cancer patients use supplements – doctor-recommended or not.