Vitamins and Other Dietary Supplements: How Can They Help Mesothelioma Patients?

Mesothelioma patient taking dietary supplements

Supplements can be an important part of a mesothelioma patient’s treatment plan. Types of supplements include vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids and more. They come in many forms. For example, supplements may be pills, gummies, powders, bars or injections.

Mesothelioma patients may have trouble eating well due to symptoms and treatments. Supplements can help address some nutrition problems. Doctors may also give patients supplements to improve treatment or help manage side effects. A dietitian or other member of a patient’s health team should supervise any supplement use.

Supplements That May Support Patients With Mesothelioma

Supplements may help mesothelioma patients with their nutrition. Unlike drugs, supplements are not meant to treat or cure diseases. But they may provide other benefits.

Supplements cancer patients may take include:

  • Amino acids
  • Beta-carotene
  • Calcium
  • Folic acid
  • Magnesium
  • Protein supplements
  • Selenium
  • Vitamins A, B12, D and E
  • Zinc

A deficiency of any of these nutrients can affect a patient’s health. For example, too little zinc can lower a person’s normal immune response. This can increase the likelihood of infection.

Why Do Mesothelioma Patients Take Supplements?

A diet of cancer-fighting foods may provide benefits for mesothelioma patients. But maintaining a healthy diet may be difficult without some supplements. Cancer can cause problems with the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. Patients may also have trouble eating due to cancer symptoms and treatment side effects. For example, mesothelioma treatment may cause side effects such as:

  • Mouth sores
  • Trouble chewing
  • Trouble swallowing

These side effects can make eating uncomfortable. A doctor may prescribe a multivitamin, mineral supplement or other supplements to help with these problems.

Some patients may also have dietary limitations such as allergies and food preferences. These patients may take supplements to get nutrients they cannot get from food.

Can Supplements Make Mesothelioma Treatment More Successful?

Some research suggests supplements may help improve cancer treatment. These studies look at combining the benefits of supplements with different treatment methods. For example:

  • Antioxidants: Short-term studies have looked into the benefits of antioxidants used with cisplatin. Cisplatin is a chemotherapy drug. These studies suggest antioxidants may reduce side effects from cisplatin in cancer patients.
  • Vitamin D: One study looked at the effect of vitamin D and pemetrexed on pleural mesothelioma. Pemetrexed is a chemotherapy drug. The study found this combination increased the drug’s cell-killing power.
  • Vitamin E and beta-carotene: Researchers have looked into using vitamin E and beta-carotene in cancer treatments. This combination may reduce toxicity from radiation therapy in cancer patients.

These studies suggest that supplements may enhance certain cancer treatments.

Are Any Supplements Bad for Mesothelioma Patients?

Some supplements may do more harm than good. Mesothelioma patients should consult with a doctor or dietitian about taking any supplement.

For instance, not all supplements are safe products. Supplements do not have the same strict safety and effectiveness requirements as drugs. Companies can sell them without having to prove they are safe and effective.

In other cases, certain supplements may have negative effects for cancer patients. For example, some doctors worry about possible effects of antioxidants on certain types of chemotherapy. Antioxidants help prevent cell damage. In theory, this could negatively affect the chemotherapy’s ability to kill cancer cells.

Certain supplements may also cause skin rashes and severe reactions when combined with radiation therapy. Patients receiving radiation therapy can consult their doctors about this risk.

Mesothelioma patients should discuss taking any new supplements with a health team member. Their dietitian or another person on their health team can help determine if a supplement is safe.

Choosing the Most Beneficial Mesothelioma Supplements

Supplements may provide benefits for some mesothelioma patients. They can help with a range of issues related to nutrition. They may also help improve certain aspects of treatments.

However, supplements are much less regulated than drugs and may be unsafe. Some may cause negative effects in cancer patients, even when used correctly.

The optimal supplement regimen will vary from patient to patient. A dietitian or mesothelioma doctor can help patients choose which supplements to take. They can help tailor the supplement regimen to a patient’s individual needs.