Have you considered using complementary medicines as part of your breast cancer treatment?
Complementary medicines are sometimes used in addition to conventional medical treatments such as chemotherapy and hormone-blocking therapies.
Some examples of complementary medicines include:
herbal medicines, including Chinese and Ayurveda medicines
vitamin and mineral supplements.
Should I use a complementary medicine?
Before you take any complementary medicines, it’s important to seek advice from your doctor. It is also important to let all your doctors (cancer specialists, other specialists, GP, etc.) know about any complementary medicines you are using.
Some complementary medicines can cause unwanted side effects. They can also interfere with prescription medicines – including breast cancer medicines – and can make your breast cancer treatments less effective. For example, vitamin C supplements can interfere with some chemotherapy treatments, and St John’s Wort can reduce the effectiveness of tamoxifen and some chemotherapies.
Sometimes your doctor may suggest you use a complementary medicine. For example, Vitamin D may be recommended for people being treated with an aromatase inhibitor (Arimidex, Femara, Aromasin).
How are complementary medicines labelled?
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) ensures that all medicines available in Australia are safe to use.
There are three types of complementary medicines that are available for supply in Australia that are given one of three codes by the TGA:
listed complementary medicines which have an AUST L number on the label
assessed listed complementary medicines which have an AUST L(A) number on the label
registered complementary medicines, which have an AUST R number on the label.
Listed medicines and assessed listed medicines can be chosen by people rather than prescribed or recommended by a doctor or pharmacist. Almost all complementary medicines are listed.
Registered medicines are higher risk, and while some can be chosen by people, some are only available through a health professional.
For more information about what these labels mean in terms of risk and safety, see the TGA's complementary medicines information .
Conference for people affected by metastatic breast cancer
People often use complementary therapies to manage side effects and to improve wellbeing but discuss these with your treatment team first
Chemotherapy through a drip or in a tablet is common to control or slow metastatic breast cancer, relieve symptoms and improve quality of life
Drug treatments for early breast cancer may be recommended before surgery. This is called neoadjuvant therapy and has multiple benefits
Hormone-blocking therapies may be used in treatment. Understand which type is right for you, how it works, and possible side effects
Treatment types vary, depending on the type of metastatic breast cancer and where it has spread. Understand the options
If you choose alternative therapies that are unproven, instead of conventional breast cancer treatment, discuss this with your doctor