Using herbal products to treat breast cancer that's spread to the skin could slow wound healing and interfere with chemotherapy or hormone treatment, an expert warns.
Many patients try herbal products and creams to treat these skin lesions, according to Dr. Maria Joao Cardoso, head breast surgeon at Champalimaud Cancer Center in Lisbon, Portugal.
"There are many of these therapies, especially herbal products and topical creams, that can have a negative impact in cancer treatment," she said. Cardoso noted that lab studies have shown that some products can interfere with the blood clotting process required for a wound to heal. If a patient has a bleeding wound, she added, the compounds can have "a strong, adverse impact on scarring and how well wound dressings work."
She said patients should always check with their doctors before trying complementary treatments for cancer that has spread to the skin. Cardoso presented the observations Thursday at the Advanced Breast Cancer Fifth International Consensus Conference, in Lisbon. Information presented at meetings is considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
Complementary compounds that can hinder blood clotting include green chiretta, feverfew, garlic, ginger, ginkgo, ginseng, hawthorn, horse chestnut and turmeric, according to Cardoso.
"These are just some examples. The number of herbal products available is huge and the available evidence for their efficacy is nil," Cardoso said in a meeting news release.
The spread of breast cancer to the skin is common, occurring in as many as 20 percent of cases.
"Skin lesions often cause discomfort and distress and they are very difficult to treat successfully," Cardoso said. "Topical treatments that can be applied directly to the lesion, have become more popular, although they are successful in healing or controlling the wound in no more than 50 percent of cases."
The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more on breast cancer.
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