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Just Because It's Natural Doesn't Mean It's Safe

Do you head to the health food store to find out what natural remedies will boost your immune system, or help minimize the side effects related to cancer treatment?

If so, do you take the extra step to share this information with your cancer physician? Many people do not talk to their doctor about what supplements they are taking. Often they have no idea it’s a topic they even need to bring up with their physician. That may be due to the common misconception that if something is natural, it can cause no harm. However, sometimes the opposite is true.

A natural herb or mineral supplement can be processed by the same enzymatic pathways in our bodies as the medicines prescribed by your physician, including cancer treatments. This means, in some cases, an herb which is considered relatively safe to take on its own may lead to negative consequences when taken at the same time as a certain medication.

For example, the antidepressant St. John’s Wort can make the chemotherapy agent Irinotecan (Camptosar, CPT-11) less effective. The important take home message is this: Make sure to tell your physician about everything you ingest, whether it’s an over-the-counter medication, regularly prescribed medication, or an herbal supplement.


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