Should Cancer Patients Take Vitamins and Supplements? | Dana-Farber Cancer Institute?

Should vitamins and supplements be a part of a cancer patient’s diet? Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center Nutritionist Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, CSO, discusses the best foods and diet for cancer patients.

This video was originally filmed as part of a live video webchat, “The Best Foods and Diet for Cancer Treatment and Survivorship,” held on March 25, 2015. View the entire webchat here:

More information on nutrition during cancer treatment is available at:


You really want to go back to your dietician and to your doctor with any of these questions, because certain supplements are important and helpful. Some people need to take Vitamin D. Some people need to take probiotics. Magnesium sometimes, if your blood level is low from chemo.

But there are other supplements that can actually reduce the effectiveness of your treatment. For example, taking high-dose antioxidant pills during radiation therapy may reduce its effectiveness—same thing for chemo. So, you don’t want to be going through all of this and doing something that’s inadvertently sort of compromising its success to some extent.

One thing that people often are understandably confused about is, ‘Well, then I guess I shouldn’t eat blueberries, because those have antioxidants.’ And the issue and concern is just with supplements, which can be high dose, potent, and also to some extent a lack of regulation, so we don’t want you skipping those fruits and veggies. We want you picking those and asking your doctor about the supplements. Don’t just start taking vitamins thinking they’re going to fill in the gaps.

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