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Alternative medicines: Are they good for cancer patients?

More than 30 percent of cancer patients report using complementary and alternative medicine like yoga, acupuncture, and herbal supplements. As Dr. Nina Sanford explains, some can be beneficial while undergoing treatment, while others come with risks. Read story


These therapies could certainly help improve your mood, decrease stress and anxiety. [Narrator] - We've all heard the benefits of yoga and meditation. A reset on the mat, may be just what the doctor prescribes, as a complement to help with cancer treatment.

It could help a patient, for example, get through cancer treatment, and come to their daily radiation appointments.

[Narrator] - A study done at UT Southwestern Medical Center found that 1/3 of cancer patients are already embracing complementary and alternative medicine.

There's a wide range. They include things like herbal supplements, special diets, and also things like acupuncture, tai chi, yoga. [Narrator] - In a national survey, including more than 3,100 patients with a history of cancer, over 30% admit to using some form of additional medication for the past year. - Although some of these practices certainly can be helpful, I would never recommend that my patients do this, instead of engaging in conventional cancer care. [Narrator]

Though there is value for using practices such as yoga and meditation, for those using herbal supplements while undergoing cancer treatment, Dr Sanford says there can be a risk.

As far as herbal supplements, it could include things like plant extracts. Some of them can be harmful as well, particularly things like potentially herbal supplements, special diets, things that potentially could interfere or interact with treatments. [Narrator] - Research reveals that almost 30% of patients were not disclosing to their doctors everything they need to know.

I think it'd be helpful for providers to know if patients are using complementary and alternative medicines, so that we can try to help determine whether or not they could potentially interfere with cancer treatments that we're recommending. [Narrator] - Because when it comes to cancer care, being mindful of your health now can help extend it in the future.