Vitamins During Cancer Treatment

When undergoing treatment to battle and hopefully overcome cancer, it is incredibly important to maintain optimal health.  Striving to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle will help your body be in top fighting condition and stay as strong as possible while treatment does its job.  Cancer treatment can be incredibly trying and can exhaust and run down the body because it is very harsh.  By maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle during treatment, you give your body the best opportunity to stay strong.  Many patients wonder what vitamins they could, or even should, be taking during treatment.  Will vitamin truly help during cancer treatment and, if so, which vitamins are ideal for cancer patients?

Most physicians recommend that everyone, both cancer patients and non-cancer patients, take a multivitamin but caution against taking too many supplemental vitamins in addition to a multivitamin.  The reason for this is that taking additional vitamins may actually give you too much of a vitamin (especially if you are eating a well rounded diet), which can be harmful to your health.  It has been shown that getting plenty of antioxidants through diet and vitamins can help prevent cancer but there is no proof as of now that it will help treat cancer.  The first and most important thing to know about taking supplements is that you should always consult your physician before beginning any  vitamin or supplement because some vitamins and supplements may actually cause problems during treatment.

One supplement of interest in the cancer community is a green tea supplement.  Green tea has been proven to have powerful antioxidant properties.  WebMD explains why a green tea supplement may be beneficial for cancer patients, “Green tea contains substances called polyphenols that are believed to have powerful anti-cancer abilities.  Cancerous tumors rely on fast-growing networks of blood vessels to sustain their rapid growth rate. Green tea compounds may possess the ability to help slow or prevent this rapid growth. “Green tea seems to inhibit the development of new blood vessels in tumors, and provides one more approach that can be used to strangle tumors,” Birdsall tells WebMD.  Because it would take the equivalent of drinking 10 to 12 cups of green tea each day to obtain the cancer-fighting levels of green tea compounds, Birdsall recommends that his patients take green tea in extract form. Be aware, there are some concerns about green tea extracts and liver toxicity. Also, a recommendation of 10 to 12 cups of green tea per day would be for cancer treatment, not cancer prevention.  Drinking green tea may increase the survival rates of some cancer patients. One study of women with ovarian cancer found that women who drank green tea were more likely to survive three years after ovarian cancer diagnosis than women who did not drink green tea. The survival rates increased with higher consumption levels of green tea.”  Additionally, there have been studies to test the effectiveness of using Vitamin C, combined with traditional cancer treatment, to help improve treatment.  While there is no conclusive evidence to support it, there have been positive results in initial trials according to NBC News, “Qi Chen of the University of Kansas and colleagues took a look first at how ascorbate might work. Tests on ovarian tumor cells in lab dishes showed it busted up DNA in cancer cells but not in other cell types. Adding chemotherapy accelerated the effect. Mouse tests showed the combination didn’t seem to be toxic, so they took the trial to 25 women with advanced ovarian cancer — one of the deadliest cancers.  “High-dose intravenous ascorbate was added to conventional paclitaxel/carboplatin therapy, and toxicity was assessed,” they wrote in their report.  Not only did the treatment appear to do no harm, but it also seemed to kill the tumor cells better and reduce side effects from the chemotherapy. There were not enough women taking part in the trial to really tell, but the researchers said it’s worth trying out the approach in more patients.  Melanie McConnell of Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand agreed. “As a single agent, high-dose ascorbate does not demonstrate anticancer activity in clinical trials,” she wrote in a commentary. “However, ascorbate could be a useful addition to existing therapy as a combination agent because of its low toxicity profile.”  More research is needed to show definitively whether or not vitamins and supplements have any additional benefit cancer treatment.  Consult your physician to discuss whether or not it would be wise to take an integrative medicine approach and include vitamins in your treatment.

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