Ask the Advocates: Complementary Treatments, Alternative Therapies and Side Effects
Last updated: March 2021
We asked our SkinCancer.net advocates and Facebook community if they've used any complementary treatments or alternative therapies to help relieve side effects of treatment or procedures.
Alternative therapies for skin cancer side effects
Here is what they shared:
I do radiation treatments for non-melanoma skin cancers and I have had a few patients rave over beeswax. My treatment causes a sunburn-like reaction in the treated area and the women who have used natural beeswax have said they noticed a huge reduction in the redness and dryness of the treatment area.
Liz: Vaseline & vitamin D3
Having had several skin cancers on my lips, I would have to say that my go-to after painful procedures performed on that very tender area has been Aquaphor or Vaseline. Vaseline has a home in every room in my home. As my mother always said, “It’ll cure whatever ails you…” Also, daily vitamin D3 supplements have been medically advised and I take them religiously.
Caution against natural remedies and treatments
While complementary and alternative therapies can help ease pain and other side effects, it's important to take caution when it comes to "natural remedies" for skin cancer. There are a number of products that claim to help cure skin cancer, but these claims are most likely inaccurate and potentially dangerous. There is often no reliable research to back up these products' claims.1
Interference with skin cancer treatment
Some natural products can have negative impacts on skin cancer treatments. "Vitamin A, vitamin C, and St. John’s wort are especially worrisome. If a patient takes one of these while on chemotherapy or receiving radiation treatments, serious side effects can occur." Certain natural therapies can also interfere with clinical trial outcomes, affecting the certainty of the drug or treatment on trial.1
What do I do if I want to use a natural product?
First and foremost, make sure to speak with your healthcare provider or dermatologist. They can help you understand the benefits and the risks of using a new product - especially when it comes to combining it with other treatments. If you have not yet received an official skin cancer diagnosis, they will also be able to help order the necessary biopsies or tests. They are there to answer your questions and address your concerns. If you have a concern with the traditional medical therapy or procedure, talk to them about it! They may be able to provide background and clinical information that you're unaware of. Also, make sure you're honest with your doctor about any supplements or natural products that you're currently using. This will help them provide the best and safest treatment plan for you.1
Also, question the claims of the product that is selling healing or a cure. Look for reliable research and sources that back up what they're saying. If it sounds too good to be true and can't back it up, it's likely not to have the outcomes it claims to produce.
Read more about complementary and alternative medicine!
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