In the second of this 2-Part series, we will take a look at radiation therapy. How does it work? How can you recover your health after treatment? And, most importantly, which natural substances can not only boost your immune system but also help you have a more effective treatment possible?
What Radiation Does In the Body
Radiation therapy for Breast Cancer, also called radiotherapy, uses high-energy beams in the form of either x-rays or proton rays to destroy cancer cells. When this radiation comes into contact with cells, it damages their DNA so they cannot duplicate genetic information.
According to the Mayo Clinic, radiation for Breast Cancer is typically administered in one of two ways. The most common is via a machine directed at the tumor area from outside the body.
The other way is called brachytherapy and is usually performed after surgery. In this case, the doctor will place a device in the tumor area through which he or she can deliver a radiation source, such as iodine-125.
About 60% of women who go the conventional route for early stage Breast Cancer will opt for a lumpectomy followed by radiation. A 2015 study published in the journal JAMA Surgery followed 132,00 women with Breast Cancer. Without taking into account diet or lifestyle, they found 10-year survival rate for women who received lumpectomy plus radiation to be approximately 94%. On the other hand, other research has proven that radiotherapy may increase Breast Cancer risk in the long run.
Radiation is mutagenic in nature. It can destroy the chromosomal structure of both cancer and healthy cells. It is also important to remember that while medical radiation may reduce a tumor in the short run, it cannot destroy cancer stem cells. Stem cells are responsible for “re-catalyzing” tumor growth, sometimes many years after the initial cancer incident.
Medical Radiation’s Short and Long Term Effects
When radiation therapy is used for Breast Cancer, typical side effects can be:
-Rash or burn in the breast area
-Breast or nipple soreness
-Difficulty swallowing or sore throat
-Shortness of breath
The long-term effects of Breast Cancer radiotherapy may include:
-Lung complications, including radiation fibrosis (i.e. permanent scarring of the lungs)
-Ongoing fatigue and low energy
-Other secondary cancers, such as thyroid cancer or sarcomas
Natural Substances and Modalities to Help
Most of the following natural substances mentioned below focus on assisting the entire body by lowering inflammation, tackling cancer cells directly or removing radioactive materials from the body.
The phytonutrient resveratrol, found in dark-colored foods such berries and cacao, is thought to be “radiosensitive,” according to research conducted in 2013. This means that it can work synergistically with radiation therapy to more specifically target cancer cells.
Curcumin, found in turmeric, is another substance that can effect cancer cells directly. It has been proven in countless studies to have strong anti-tumor properties. Another less known characteristic of curcumin is that is can be very protective against radiation. Curcumin had an anti-inflammatory affect and helped with fibrosis in a Korean investigation. The 7 Essentials System® Optimal Curcumin contains three different kinds of bioactive curcuminoids along with turmeric oil.
The antioxidants in ginkgo biloba extract may help to protect healthy cells against radiation exposure. One study conducted by researchers at Turkey’s Gaziantep University found that people who were exposed to ionized radiation at work had decreased blood markers for radiation exposure after taking it. A 2009 report published in the International Journal of Low Radiation also found that ginkgo helped to neutralize free radical and oxidizing agents that may be formed as a result of radiation exposure.
Medicinal mushrooms should be a staple in the healing toolbox of anyone who wants to prevent and heal from Breast Cancer. There are dozens of types of mushrooms that can boost immunity, reduce inflammation and protect against disease. Some varieties, such as reishi and chaga, contain beta glucans which have been shown to help heal internal burns caused by radioactive isotopes as well as detoxify radioactive materials from the body.
One in 4 women who has had radiation therapy for Breast Cancer will also experience hypothyroidism (compared to 1 in 10 for women who have not had radiation therapy). One of the best thing you can do to prevent this is to make sure you are getting enough iodine every day.
Some forms of iodine are better than others for those who are on a Healthy Breast journey. The 7 Essentials System® Iodine Support combines potassium iodide with selenium to support healthy T4/T3 conversion. For thyroid health after Breast Cancer radiotherapy, it is also important to avoid and remove toxins that can block iodine absorption, such as bromide and perchlorate as well as to get your iodine levels regularly.
Similar to other soy isoflavones like miso, genistein has shown to decrease a wide range of radiation side effects. Studies have also found that it can also inhibit cancer cells’ ability to self-repair.
Astragalus is a staple in Chinese Medicine since it is a proven immune booster. A 2011 in vivo investigation found that the flavonoids in astragalus were able to increase survival rates after radiation exposure.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Some studies have found that omega 3s may improve the effectiveness of radiation therapy. Upping the omega 3s in your diet can also soothe radiation rash since it helps to hydrate the cells on all levels. The 7 Essentials System® Hi-Po Fish Oil product also includes digestive aid lipase as well as TruTG™, which guarantees up to 50% higher fish oil levels than the industry standard.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT)
A 2015 meta-analysis put together by the Cochrane Group determined that HBOT showed promise for both tissue healing and general healing after radiation therapy.
Support for Lymphedema
Lymphedema is one of the most common, and the most potentially dangerous, side effect of radiation therapy in the breast area, especially for women who have also had mammary-area lymph nodes removed.
The lymph system is one of the main ways the body eliminates toxins. When this system gets clogged, lymphedema can occur. When left untreated, lymphedema can turn into edema or fibrosis.
The best way to keep lymphedema under control is to keep the lymph system moving! Key ways to do this is include exercise, staying hydrated, getting lymphatic massage and performing dry skin brushing. For other ways you can support your lymph system after radiation, please see this article!
Natural Substances: A Part of Your Conventional Cancer Treatment Plan
The good news is that more and more medical doctors are opening up to the major role diet, lifestyle and natural substances can play in healing disease. My hope is that you consider all of the substances mentioned in this 2-part series to find out what works for you if you choose conventional treatments on your Healthy Breast journey.
Pls I have lymphedema, I ve been wearing compressor stockens for the past two months, how long does it stay before it clears
Be sure you continue working with your practitioner who is supporting you with your lymphedema. You can discuss with them whether lymphatic massage is appropriate for you. You can also refer to this blog post for more tips on healthy lymph support: https://breastcancerconqueror.com/easy-ways-keep-lymphatic-system-moving/
Can all of these be used DURING radiation or afterwards only? I take quite a few supplements and the dietician who works at the radiation center, who was required to look at my supplements took issue with anything with anti-oxidants, Vit C, and mostly all supplements besides a multivitamin. My naturopath obviously believes in all of these things and I she has recommended most of these items plus more. Are there any supplements that you would agree should be avoided during radiation b/c it could counter the effects of radiation? Thank you!
Antioxidants help healthy cells manage and recover from radiation. Antioxidants can’t be used by cancer cells leaving them weakened and dying from radiation.
This is Awesome Material. It really helps me understand whats going on with my condition.
Yayyyy! Happy to hear that you are enjoying it!