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Alternative Medicine: Is PS-SPES Safe and Effective for Prostate Cancer?

separator If you have prostate cancer, you may have heard somewhere along the line about an alternative treatment called PC-SPES. It’s a capsule-form mixture of saw palmetto and several Chinese herbs. PC-SPES stands for Prostate Cancer Hope (“spes” means “hope” in Latin).

PC-SPES has not been studied in large clinical trials, but in a few small studies it seemed to help some men with advanced cancer who were no longer responding to hormone therapy. However, the product was taken off the U.S. market in February of 2002 because some capsules were discovered to contain prescription drugs that could be harmful.

If you look hard enough, you may be able to find some products that are described as “PS-SPES alternatives.” The American Cancer Society advises that these products have not been studied in large-scale, conventional research, so their risks and benefits are not known. There is no requirement for testing the products because they’re sold as dietary supplements, and currently such supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.

PS-SPES does have side effects. Some of the herbs in the supplement can cause the body to react as if it were taking estrogen, so breast enlargement, nipple tenderness and decreased sexual desire can occur. Leg cramps and diarrhea are additional side effects. Another problem is that since the quality of these supplements is inconsistent, it’s difficult to know whether the supplements you buy are potent enough.

Despite these warnings, if you ever decide to take a PC-SPES-like product, be sure to tell your doctor first.

American Cancer Society; Journal of Nutrition, November 2002;
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