Currently, over 200 different cancer types may affect the human body and some can be more serious than others. There are types that can easily be treated while other types seem to throw up blockades against every medical advancement made in aid of their treatment; hence, survival rate varies among these types. Cancer symptoms and signs also vary depending on the type of cancer. There are two categories of cancer – sarcoma and carcinoma cancer. Carcinomas develop on the surface linings of an organ while sarcoma develops in the cells. The use of herbal medicine as an adjunct treatment in certain types of cancer is widely recognized by numerous medical experts. Currently, the use of milk thistle for cancer has been extensively studied due to its yet unproven claim of reducing the growth of cancer cells in breast, prostate and cervical cancers.
Cancer is mainly the result of an uncontrolled grow of cells that do not die. While normal cells follow a pattern of growth, cell division and death, cancer cells don’t behave in this way. Instead, they continuously grow and divide. There are various cancer causes and risk factors including tobacco smoking, obesity, genetics, environmental factors, unsafe sex and prolonged sun exposure. General signs of cancer include unexplained weight loss, fever, pain, fatigue, skin changes, unusual bleeding or discharge, a sore that does not heal, indigestion or difficulty in swallowing, recent change in a wart or mole, hoarseness and change in bladder function or bowel habit.
Several options of cancer treatment are available today, but will still depend on the category and severity of a person’s condition. Nowadays, taking milk thistle for cancer is considered as an adjunct treatment in cancer therapy. According to cancer research using the effects of silymarin, the herb has a potent antioxidant activity and shows anti-carcinogenic, cytoprotective and anti-inflammatory properties. Even though its hepatoprotective property has been well documented, its effect on T lymphocytes remains unknown.
It is believed that using milk thistle during the early cancer stages can be beneficial in preventing proliferation of new cancer cells. Silibinin, the polyphenolic flavonoids found in milk thistle and the active constituent of silymarin, is believed to have anti-neoplastic activity in some cancer types including prostate cancer. Laboratory studies using cancer cell lines demonstrated the effectiveness of silibinin in enhancing the action of chemotherapeutic drugs doxorubicin and cisplatin against breast and ovarian cancer cells. It also influences the cycle of cancer cells by reducing the speed of cell growth, as shown with the cancer cell lines of the prostate. In addition, silibinin did not stimulate the growth of leukemia cells. Other anti-cancer effects of silibinin include effects on human colon cancer cells, small and non-small lung carcinoma cells, human ecto-cervical carcinoma cells and both estrogen dependent and independent breast carcinoma cells.
As of today, there are no clinical trials in patients with cancer that have been published. Human clinical trials investigated milk thistle’s effectiveness in patients with hepatitis, liver damage or cirrhosis. Although the effectiveness of using milk thistle for cancer has not been well-documented, taking it as liver support for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy is highly recommended.