Alternative therapies should complement conventional treatment, not replace it. Before participating in any alternative treatment programs, patients should consult their doctors concerning the appropriateness and the role of such programs in overall cancer treatment plans. Appropriate alternative treatments can help prolong a patient's life or at least improve quality of life, prevent recurrence of tumors, or prolong the remission period and reduce adverse reactions to chemotherapy and radiation.
The use of beta-carotene and vitamin A supplements in lung cancer patients is controversial. Vitamin A and beta-carotene were advocated as antioxidants with lung-protective effects that may decrease the risk of lung cancer. However, recent studies suggest that betacarotene supplements may have no demonstrated effect in smokers and no effects on nonsmokers. Therefore, use of beta-carotene supplement in lung cancer patients or as preventive measure in smokers is not recommended at the present time. However, researchers believe that patients benefit from nature's source of beta-carotene and vitamin A. Beta-carotene in food carries all the benefits, yet does not have the harmful effects controversial high-dose supplements may carry.
The effectiveness of many of the anticancer drugs used to treat lung cancer can be reduced when patients take megadoses of antioxidants. These antioxidants in patients not undergoing chemotherapy can be helpful in protecting the body against cancer. However, taken during chemotherapy, these antioxidants protect the cancer cells from being killed by chemotherapy drugs. Because high-dose supplementation of antioxidants can interfere with conventional chemotherapy treatment, patients should check with their physicians concerning dosage and recommended daily allowance (RDA) during chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
Mai Tran, Teresa G. Odle, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,