Will Supplements Help Me If I Have Lung Cancer?

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Topics include: Living Well

Dr. David Carbone discusses the hazards lung cancer patients may face if they take supplements, while undergoing immunotherapy. He explains how diet, proper eating and nourishment of the body are important, but supplements can interfere with treatment. It is important to understand what the body is taking in and how the body is reacting to what it absorbs.  

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Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you. 

Andrew Schorr:

So you said is there anything I can do? And you go to the shopping mall, and there’s the health food store or whatever.  And there’s somebody there that says this will boost your immune system. 

Dr. Carbone:       

Right.

Andrew Schorr:                  

And we talked about immunotherapeutics. There’s something he’s not going to tell you about that’s on that shelf. Go buy it, right?  So from your point of view, what do you tell people about supplements in particular? You may talk about diet as well. 

Do you say whatever?

Dr. Carbone:       

So I think, clearly, a good diet is important.  And clearly, we don’t know everything about the interaction of what you eat with your cancer.  But some of the obvious things have been tested. High dose vitamins have been tried in clinical trials. High dose vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin C have been tried, selenium has been tried.

And universally, they’ve failed. And, in fact, in many cases, patients that took the high dose supplements died faster or more often than the people who took the placebo. So what I recommend patients is to take what your normal, rounded diet with some protein, with vegetables, that kind of thing and not take handfuls of pills from the health food store.

And also, one other comment. Sometimes, these supplements can actively interfere with your treatment.  Some of them cause blood thinning or alter the absorption of medications.  So again, there are now indexes where you can look up specific medicines and their known interactions with drugs. 

So I had one other comment. But one thing that wasn’t addressed is work.  Should I work during my treatment or after my treatment? 

And what I tell patients is, if you love your work, do your work and continue to do it. It’s one way to live your normal life and feel like cancer is not controlling you, you’re controlling your own life.  I love my work. And when I was getting treatment, I worked every single day, except chemo days. And I would sit in chemo chairs next to my patients getting chemo. But I think continuing to work helped strengthen my resolve and improve my life.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you. 

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Page last updated on November 23, 2015