Ovarian Cancer: Vitamins and Supplements During Treatment

Do Vitamins Help During Ovarian Cancer Treatment?

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A common reaction in newly diagnosed cancer patients is to seek out and buy all of the herbs, vitamins and natural supplements recommended by friends, family, the Internet, etc. Is it safe to take them during treatment?

In general, please be honest with your doctor when asked if you are taking any nonprescription medications, which include all natural supplements. You could compromise your health and safety if you don't.

Ovarian cancer treatment usually requires a combination of surgery and chemotherapy. Some supplements may help but many might hurt your safety. Why is that?

Surgery: A number of supplements and vitamins, such as Ginko, vitamin E and others can cause you to bleed more than expected. This can artificially shorten a surgical attempt to achieve optimal cytoreductive surgery. In addition, some supplements can interact with anesthesia medications, putting you at higher risk of heart rhythm disturbances and seizures.

Chemotherapy: Anti-cancer drugs effectiveness may or may not be reduced by antioxidants. Although some recent medical studies suggest that they don't, it is still not clear. Discuss this with your doctor. In addition, your blood can become thinned during chemotherapy and some supplements can increase your chances of bleeding just as they might during surgery. Finally, all drugs and medications are metabolized (broken down) by your liver and kidneys to be eventually removed from your body.

Prescription drugs or natural substances may accelerate or slow down the metabolization of drugs, such as chemotherapy. So, you can end up with either too high or too low of the desired chemotherapy level in your body. This can either increase harm or reduce effectiveness.

Does this mean you should not take any supplements at all during treatment?

 No. Some can help maintain your muscle mass, for example, those being Omega 3 fish oils. Other benefits may also exist, but the point is that you need to discuss these with your doctor as part of an integrative care plan.