Why you should ask your oncologist about alternative therapies

Sutart Siegel, MD Director, Children's Center for Cancer & Blood Disease, Children's Hospital Los Angeles, explains why it is important to always ask your oncologist about alternative therapies for cancer before trying them
Why You Should Ask Your Oncologist About Alternative Therapies
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Why you should ask your oncologist about alternative therapies

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It's really important to be open with your oncologist and make sure they know what alternative treatment you are thinking about using, or, in fact, maybe using with your child. And, the reason for this is unbeknownst to you, some of this products actually can make things worse. There are certain natural products that if combined with chemotherapy agents, they're receiving already, may heighten the toxicity of the chemotherapy agent. Or may block one of the ways chemotherapy works. This is not an alternative therapy, but, for instance, methotrexate is one of the major medicines we use for treating leukemia. If you give a patient folic acid, which is a normal vitamin, excessive folic acid along with a methotrexate you'll block the effect of that drug on the cancer cell, on the leukemia cell. It's an example of kind of things you can see. But, there are other of this alternative agents that can actually do that. That can either block the effect of the leukemia drug or make the toxicity, the side effects worse. Of course, the ultimate terrible thing is if you take those agents without taking the regular treatment you need. And, we had some patients occasionally do that. And that always end up in a very sad and tragic situation, of recurrence of the cancer. And often too late to be able to effectively treat it. So that's the other thing. You don't want to use them instead of the treatments that need to be given. The other problem with someone using alternative medicine, particularly the ones like natural teas or leaf or other sorts of things. They may be contaminated with things that can be dangerous for the child. Including, by the way, germs such as unusual fungi or bacteria. So, we would really recommend staying away from those things without talking to your doctor. There is evidence that some fruit and vegetables actually are helpful in preventing certain cancers. Mainly in adults. Not treating them. But, preventing the cancer from occurring. Usually, dietary kites of related to cancers like gastrointestinal cancers. For instance, blueberries or brussel sprouts or vegetables like this that eat up free oxygen in the intestinal tract and preventing that free oxygen from triggering cancers in the intestinal tract.

Sutart Siegel, MD Director, Children's Center for Cancer & Blood Disease, Children's Hospital Los Angeles, explains why it is important to always ask your oncologist about alternative therapies for cancer before trying them

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Stuart E. Siegel, MD

Director, Children’s Center for Cancer & Blood Diseases, Children's Hospital Los Angeles

Before recently shifting his focus to international medicine, Stuart Siegel, MD, was Chief of the Division of Hematology/Oncology for 35 years and the founding director of the the Children’s Center for Cancer & Blood Diseases at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, and Professor and Head of the Division of Hematology-Oncology Department of Pediatrics, Keck School of Medicine of University of Southern California. He remains a leader in supportive care and research in pediatric oncology, with a special focus on neuroblastoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Ewing Sarcoma, acute lymphoblastic leukemia and brain tumors. From developing the first pediatric protective environment in 1971 for children undergoing intensive chemotherapy, to pioneering current efforts to develop academic and clinical care programs nationally and locally for adolescents and young adults with cancer, Dr. Siegel’s contributions have revolutionized the field of pediatric oncology. Dr. Siegel has been honored for his work by the American Cancer Society, Children Foundation, the Cancer Foundation, the Chase Foundation, Padres Contra El Cancer, the Israel Cancer Research Fund and Ronald McDonald House Charities, where he is a member of the National Board, and has consistently been listed among the nation’s top doctors in such publications asAmerica’s Top Doctors and Best Doctors in America. He is a father of one son, Joshua; grandfather of David and Elijah; and lives in Pacific Palisades with his wife of seven years.

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