Is mixing alcohol and chemo unsafe?

3 answers | Last updated: Feb 13, 2011
A fellow caregiver asked...

I have a friend who is going through chemotherapy for stage lV ovarian cancer and she is getting drunk on more than one occasion. Is it bad to mix alcohol and chemo?

Expert Answers

Andrew Putnam, M.D. is a Palliative Care physician at Smilow Cancer Center at Yale New Haven Hospital and Yale University.

It's not a great idea for cancer patients to drink heavily and it's really not a good idea while having chemotherapy.

Alcohol can interfere with the liver's ability to metabolize (process) the chemotherapy drugs and thus can cause increased damage to the body. This effect can be magnified if the cancer is already affecting the liver either as a cancer of the liver or a cancer that has metastasized to the liver from someplace else.

If the chemotherapy drug is one that itself causes damage to the liver, then added to the liver damage from the heavy drinking, she could be great increasing her risk of liver failure which could, if severe enough, lead to death

Community Answers

Angel357 answered...

my husband of 23jhr.he is 46.drinks 1 gallen ofwiskey aweek and beer is he in danger of liver failure he also gets mean when he drinks ineed a anwners and prayers thank you angel 357

Nurset answered...

Your liver synthezises everything going into your body, including chemo meds and alcohol. Your liver is an incredible organ, very forgiving.........repairs itself over and over again from damage....but those repairs take time and you only have one liver. Chemotherapy is very hard on your liver. That liver has kept her safe and healthy for many years, and will do it's best now, if your girlfriend lets it.........that is her lifeline to the success of beating this Ovarian CA. She needs to talk with her oncologist about her depression....they understand and will prescribe the appropriate medications,etc.that she needs to get through this.....that's what they are there for.Dr. Putnum is absolutely correct---she will die...she needs to get a handle on this. I'm glad you're her friend, please be patient. I had my battle with CA..It's very have to stay healthy, eat least eat what you can(hopefully healthy)and if you are able, continue to work, at least part time, I know it helped me keep my sanity. Unfortunately, this is part of life..and your girlfriend needs to have a strong liver and a strong mind to beat this....she can only afford to spend so much time feeling sorry for herself......... seriously. Good luck to you and your friend, my thoughts and prayers are with you. NurseT