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Boosting immune system during cancer treatments

Series: To Your Good Health | Story 1

Last updated 8/12/2020 at 2:19pm

DEAR DR. ROACH: My niece recently was diagnosed with breast cancer. Radiation was recommended. Her mother said that first she’d have to boost her immune system. Is it possible to actually do that? -- P.P.L.

ANSWER: Radiation is a common treatment after breast cancer surgery. It’s done to reduce the risk of recurrence, depending on the exact type of cancer.

Boosting the immune system is a new adjunct for many types of cancer. There are several ways to do this: One is to genetically modify the patient’s own immune T-cells, but many other techniques are in trials now.

However, if your niece’s mother is talking about supplements, I’d be cautious. Supplements that are promoted to boost the immune system generally are ineffective at doing so. Making sure your niece has proper nutrition, gets good sleep and experiences as little stress as is manageable are ways to prevent stress on the immune system. Everyone could benefit from those deceptively simple steps, but especially a person being treated for cancer.


Dr. Roach regrets that he is unable to answer individual questions, but will incorporate them in the column whenever possible. Readers may email questions to [email protected]

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