Radiation therapy side-effects and solutions.
Risks associated with Radiation therapy
- Increased risk of other cancers
- Lung disease
- Urinary and bladder changes
- Heart and vascular problems
- Increased risk of stroke
- Cavities and tooth decay
- Memory problems
- Early menopause
- Intestinal problems
- Blurry vision
- Hair loss
- Fertility problems (women)
- Fertility problems (men)
- Less active thyroid gland
- Nausea and vomiting
- Sexual problems (men)
- Sexual problems (women)
- Shortness of breath
- Skin changes
- Swelling (Edema)
- Taste changes
- Throat changes, such as trouble swallowing
Sources: National Cancer Institute and the Mayo Clinic
Your medical team will prescribe pharmaceutical drugs to deal with some of the side-effects of radiation therapy, but these come with their own risks.
However, there are many other evidence-based solutions you can use to reduce side-effects, make your treatment work better and safer, and significantly improve your chances of survival. These solutions (most of them natural) are listed below – along with scientific studies showing their benefits.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
|Highly effective therapy for wound healing|
Protect Healthy Tissues and Organs
|Protects healthy tissues|
Black Grape Juice
| Heart Protection|
| Brain Protection|
Retinol palmitate (a form of vitamin A)
| Lung Protection|
| Tissue Protection|
| Gut Protection|
EGCG (Green Tea)
Aloe Vera gel
| Skin Protection|
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
| Intestine Protection|
| Bladder Protection|
Silymarin (Milk Thistle extract)
| Digestive Tract Protection|
|Reduces Cerebral Edema (swelling)|
Selenium (Sodium Selenite)
| Reduces Lymphedema|
|Nausea and Vomiting|
|Reduces nausea and vomiting|
|Acute Radiation Proctopathy (ARP) treatment|
|Inhibits radiation-induced Fibrosis|
|Urinary, Intestinal, and Sexual|
|Reduce urinary, intestinal, and sexual adverse effects of radiation|
Psyllium (a plant fiber)
|Reduces diarrhea caused by radiation|
|Dysphagia (swallowing difficulties)|
|Delays the onset of dysphagia|
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
|Improves saliva flow|
| || |
Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
Boswellia Serrata (plant extract)
|Sensitises cancer cells to radiation |
General protection from radiation
Black cumin (Nigella sativa)
|General protection from the effects of radiation therapy|
A word about using supplemental antioxidants during radiation therapy
Many oncologists advise against taking supplemental antioxidants during radiation therapy. Many integrative practitioners, on the other hand, believe that antioxidants taken during treatment not only alleviate some of the treatment side effects but also enhance the efficacy of the treatment.
Study: The preponderance of laboratory and clinical evidence leads to the conclusion that dietary antioxidants do not interfere with the beneficial effects of radiotherapy. It is possible that the judicious use of antioxidants may in fact enhance therapeutic results. There are indications that posttherapy, selective antioxidants may reverse some of the adverse effects of radiotherapy. In one RCT involving patients with stage IV glioblastoma multiforme, 30 patients received 60 Gy of radiotherapy alone or radiotherapy plus 20-mg daily oral doses of melatonin, until disease progression. Both the survival curve and the percent of survival at 1 year were significantly higher in patients treated with RT [radiation therapy] plus MLT [Melatonin] than in those receiving RT alone.” Six of 14 MLT-treated patients were alive at 1 year versus just 1 out of 16 in the radiotherapy group.
Here is scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of all the items listed above.
a. All scientific studies appear with a coloured background like this.
b. Only sample studies are cited for each of the following solutions, but there may be many more available on PubMed and elsewhere.
c. Many of the following solutions have multiple benefits in addition to those shown below.
Reduces radiation-induced side effects:
1. WOUND HEALING
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT)
This review says: We included 19 trials in this review (2286 participants: 1103 allocated to HBOT and 1153 to control). For head and neck cancer, there was an overall reduction in the risk of dying at both one year and five years after therapy, and some evidence of improved local tumour control immediately following irradiation…There was a lower incidence of local recurrence of tumour when using HBOT at both one and five years … There was also some evidence with regard to the chance of metastasis at five years.
Study with 411 patients: A positive outcome from hyperbaric treatment occurred in 94% of patients with osteoradionecrosis of the jaw, 76% of patients with cutaneous radionecrosis that caused open wounds, 82% of patients with laryngeal radionecrosis, 89% of patients with radiation cystitis, 63% of patients with gastrointestinal radionecrosis, and 100% of patients who were treated in conjunction with oral surgery in a previously irradiated jaw. CONCLUSIONS: The outcomes of 411 patients collected prospectively over 8 years strongly supported the efficacy of hyperbaric oxygen treatment for the 6 conditions evaluated.
2. PROTECT HEALTHY TISSUES AND ORGANS
3. CEREBRAL EDEMA
Study involving 44 patients:
BS [Boswellia serrata] significantly reduced cerebral edema measured by MRI in the study population. BS could potentially be steroid-sparing for patients receiving brain irradiation.
Selenium (Sodium selenite)
Study of 40 patients with breast cancer related lymphedema [BCRL] found: Sodium selenite therapy in combination with CDPT [complex decongestive physiotherapy] is effective in reducing the volume of upper limb in BCRL, and significantly reduce the volume of the affected distal upper limb compared to CDPT alone.
5. NAUSEA AND VOMITING
Study: Nausea, appetite loss, pain, and anxiety are all afflictions of wasting, and all can be mitigated by marijuana.
Study of 88 patients: The present study supports previous experimental research showing that acupressure bands are effective in controlling nausea and extends these positive findings to the population of patients experiencing radiation therapy-related nausea. It is noteworthy that prior to entering the study, all patients experienced nausea and that this nausea was not completely controlled by their physician-provided antiemetic regimen. Nausea for cancer treatments, once it occurs, is often very difficult to control and yet these simple bands were effective in that effort. It is a low-cost, nonintrusive, safe adjunct to standard antiemetics that has great patient acceptance.
6. RECTAL BLEEDING
Study of 20 patients with ARP [acute radiation proctitis] found: Topical sodium butyrate, unlike other therapeutic regimens used so far, proved effective in the treatment of ARP.
Study: In conclusion, our results show a significant, and clinically relevant, effect of ozone therapy in the management of radiation-induced rectal bleeding. Following ozone therapy, the requirements for blood transfusions were significantly decreased as was the need for endoscopic procedures. The grades of toxicity (according to the CTCAE scale) were also reduced. These effects were maintained over the course of protracted follow-up, and no adverse impact on survival was noted. We believe the local application of ozone therapy can be useful as adjuvant treatment in managing radiation proctitis…
See Ozone therapy page
Study: In conclusion, the present study provides new evidence that quercetin may have a role in the management of radiation induced fibrosis. Coupled with previously published data reporting sensitization of tumor cells to irradiation with quercetin treatment, these data strongly support the further evaluation of quercetin and its bioactive metabolites, as a radiation mitigator.
8. URINARY, SEXUAL AND INTESTINAL
Study of 42 prostate cancer patients: Forty-two patients with prostate cancer were randomly assigned to receive 200 mg soy isoflavone (Group 1) or placebo (Group 2) daily for 6 mo beginning with the first day of radiation therapy…Only 26 and 27 patients returned completed questionnaires at 3 and 6 mo, respectively. At each time point, urinary, bowel, and sexual adverse symptoms induced by radiation therapy were decreased in the soy isoflavone group compared to placebo group. At 3 mo, soy-treated patients had less urinary incontinence, less urgency, and better erectile function as compared to the placebo group. At 6 mo, the symptoms in soy-treated patients were further improved as compared to the placebo group. These patients had less dripping/leakage of urine (7.7% in Group 1 vs. 28.4% in Group 2), less rectal cramping/diarrhea (7.7% vs. 21.4%), and less pain with bowel movements (0% vs. 14.8%) than placebo-treated patients. There was also a higher overall ability to have erections (77% vs. 57.1%). The results suggest that soy isoflavones taken in conjunction with radiation therapy could reduce the urinary, intestinal, and sexual adverse effects in patients with prostate cancer.
Psyllium (a plant fiber)
Study: Psyllium fiber is a well-tolerated, low-cost, effective intervention for reducing the incidence and severity of radiation-induced diarrhea in patients undergoing pelvic radiation treatment for prostate or gynecologic cancer.
Study: This randomized phase III trial showed that ZLC [The Zinc-L-carnosine], which is suitable for all patients whatever their comorbidities, significantly prevented or delayed the onset of RT [radiation therapy]-related dysphagia, reducing the need for steroid therapy
11. SALIVA FLOW
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
Study: Twenty-nine of 30 patients showed increased saliva flow during stimulation. A statistically significant improvement in saliva production (P < 0.05) during stimulation was noted…The interval to the application of TENS after radiotherapy significantly influenced the improvement in salivary flow.
Extra-oral application of TENS is effective in increasing the whole salivary flow in most of the post-radiated oral cavity/oropharyngeal cancer patients with xerostomia.
12. SENSITIZES CANCER CELLS TO RADIATION
13. GENERAL PROTECTION FROM RADIATION
Beta-carotene and alpha-tocopherol should be avoided in smokers undergoing radiation therapy.
This randomized trial says: We conducted a randomized trial with alpha tocopherol (400 IU/day) and beta carotene (30 mg/day) supplements among 540 head and neck cancer (HNC) patients treated by radiation therapy. We examined whether smoking during radiation therapy modified the effects of the supplementation on HNC recurrence and on mortality. the interactions between supplementation and cigarette smoking during radiation therapy were statistically significant for HNC recurrence, all-cause mortality and mortality from the initial HNC.