20 ways to improve your Radiotherapy experience

20 ways to improve your Radiotherapy experience

This is a patient-friendly, must-read article on ways to maximise your Radiotherapy Treatment, while reducing your side-effects; including natural compounds, diet-tips, integrative and complementary therapies and even other less-invasive medical treatments.

Many people with cancer will be offered radiotherapy, (radiation  or radiation therapy), which is often claimed to be orthodox medicine’s number 1 weapon against cancer. Radiotherapy uses high-speed ionising radiation, to attack tumours and it is claimed that radiotherapy is becoming more and more tightly targeted to deliver the radiation precisely into the cells that need to be killed with lower doses and less collateral damage.
20 things you need to know about radiotherapy

  1. Be clear about what sort of radiotherapy are you having:

           a. Stereotactic radiation is precisely targeted to a degree of one or two millimeters and so doctors claim the patient needs less treatment sessions to deliver an optimal result

           b. Cyberknife delivers radiation from thousands of angles robotically from a machine circling the body. It is claimed to be non-invasive because so many lines of attack on the tumour are used, damage is supposedly minimal.

           c. Gamma knife is like Cybeknife in that precise computerised radiation treatment is delivered from thousands of angles. Most often used with brain tumours.

           d. You may still be offered ‘ordinary’ radiotherapy in some hospitals. Older machines, and not so tightly targeted.

It is crucial that you understand what form your Radiation will take.  Is the radiation designed to cure, is it to mop up remaining cancer cells, micrometastases, pain relief in bones, exactly what is success, and what are the potential side-effects? How long will the treatment be? Is it a one-off, or might there be more? Will you be an Outpatient? How often has the doctor personally treated your type of tumour, and what is their success rate? Define success rate and how does it compare to the national average? You can read 'Your Questions Answered’ here (1).

2. Have ALL your planned treatments:

The total dosage is very carefully calculated to do the most efficient and effective job. So patients must go to every planned session. It should also be noted that radiotherapy can go on working for six weeks or more after the treatment has 'officially' stopped

3. Know exactly the ‘line of delivery’:

Stereotactic radiotherapy and standard radiotherapy take a line from the machine to the tumour, while gamma knife and Cyberknife use multiple lines. With the first two types of Radiation Therapy, while they damage the cancer cells, they can damage healthy cells before and after the tumour. For example, lungs and heart in breast cancer treatment; the rectum in prostate cancer treatment, the backbone in endometrial cancer treatment. The Lancet magazine cautioned that 'patients should be made aware of possible side-effects as these are not insignificant'. There is a group called Radiotherapy Action Group Exposure (RAGE) in the UK,  who once calculated that with old-fashioned radiotherapy 25% of patients suffered side-effects and even permanent damage. Ask what the Radiologist plans to do to mitigate damage. For example, some Hospitals now inject a gel behind the prostate so much of the radiation is absorbed before reaching the rectum.

4. Ask about Proton Beam Therapy as an alternative:

Britain now has a number of Proton Beam Centres - in Wales, Manchester and Reading for starters - all run by an Independent company, Rutherford Health plc. Proton Beam Therapy uses pulsed protons which only act at a defined distance so that there is no damage before or after the target (2). There is an Interview with Professor Karol Sikora who launched the company, on the CANCERactive Community (3). Ask your oncologist. If he is dismissive of Proton Beam, call Rutherford and ask them their views.

5: Complementary therapies with radiotherapy:

Whatever your oncologist says, or you may read on the Internet, patients undertaking radiotherapy owe it to their long term-health to fully understand this treatment. Importantly, don't just be passive - be fully informed and take charge. Self-help is key.

6: Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy and radiotherapy:

The first research studies were performed in the UK in 1974 and 1976. We have a review (4) on this Website of Hyperbaric Oxygen and that includes reference to a meta-analysis of 90 studies. Cancer tumours have areas of hypoxia to prevent oxygen entering the cancer cells. Hypoxia also prevents radiotherapy from working. Using oxygen under a little pressure overcomes the areas of hypoxia and pre-sensitises (weakens) cancer cells so that more are killed by the action of radiotherapy.  Radiotherapy and oxygen therapy combine to damage the Hypoxic pocket and multiple research studies clearly show that the combination makes Radiation Therapy more effective and reduces side-effects. In the UK, patients may contact the Multiple Sclerosis Society who will know of the nearest Hyperbaric Oxygen Chambers to their home.

7. Aerobic Exercise improves radiotherapy outcomes:

Not surprisingly, exercise has also been shown to be a radiosensitiser because it can damage the hypoxic pocket and deliver more oxygen to the cancer prior to radiotherapy. Aerobic exercise can make a big difference, especially where you do it immediately before the Radiotherapy treatment. Kansas State Medical School has shown that exercise before and during the radiotherapy programme makes the treatment more successful (5). In Arizona, researchers had patients riding bicycles outdoors for three hours before having their Radiation treatment. This resulted in the radiotherapy being more effective, with less-side effects. There is also research specifically with exercise prior to radiation on prostate cancer achieving better results with less side effects.

8. Berberine improves radiotherapy outcomes:

This herbal ingredient of Berberis or Goldenseal, has many benefits. It cuts levels of fasting blood sugar, attacks pathways in cancer cells and mitochondria, attacks pathogens and is a strong anti-inflammatory. There are a number of research studies showing that Berberine acts as a powerful radiosensitiser - preconditioning cancer cells so that more are killed by the radiotherapy. For example, there is specific research with oesophageal cancer (6).

9. Melatonin improves the success of radiotherapy:

Sleeping well in a dark room increases the production of melatonin in the body. Melatonin is a hormone produced by your pineal gland 40 minutes after you fall asleep. Its levels are affected if the room is not fully darkened, is influenced by blue light, and/or EMFs. Melatonin is also the largest antioxidant we make as animals and it is very anti-inflammatory - all this makes sleep very healing. But there is also research, covered by Sloan Kettering and the National Cancer Institute, that supplements of 20 mg of melatonin can greatly improve the success of radiotherapy and reduce side-effects  Melatonin is a proven Radiosensitiser - see Biomedicines; 2020, August. (7).

10. Turmeric improves success of radiotherapy and reduces radiotherapy damage:

Research shows curcumin (turmeric) can protect and reduce damage to your body during radiotherapy; and it is also a radiosensitiser, helping radiation therapy work better (8). You could also consider reducing inflammation in your body with fish oils, cod liver oil, frankincense, garlic (fresh or supplements) and a vitamin B complex, with 400 mcgs of folic acid. The latter helps protect healthy cells.

Cod liver oil






Of course, turmeric is an antioxidant, as is the sleep hormone Melatonin. Do antioxidants conflict with radiotherapy? Far from it, according to the very latest research from both MD Anderson and UCLA. They confirm it is advantageous to keep taking all the supplements.  Apparently, cancer cells lose their ability to regulate uptake of antioxidants; and the antioxidants and the radiotherapy work together to kill more cancer cells, whilst simultaneously the supplements protect the healthy cells.

11. Probiotics reduce side-effects from radiotherapy:

Radiotherapy treatment is known to damage the gut microbiome composition, reducing the immune system and plasma levels of vitamin D. Washington State Medical School showed that taking probiotics could reduce damage to the intestines and the intestinal lining if having radiotherapy on the abdomen (9). During radiotherapy, gut bacteria including Bifidobacterium strains, Lactobacillus acidophilus and L. casei have been shown to reduce the occurrence of diarrhoea in patients. They also reduce nausea - although drinking peppermint or ginger tea, or slippery elm powder dissolved in warm water will also calm the stomach and help with nausea.

12. Soluble fibre boosts radiotherapy effectiveness:

In 2011, the University of Pennsylvania showed a diet rich in flaxseed could reduce harm and even repair tissues after radiation damage. Flaxseed is a phytoestrogen; it is oxygenating and the fibre boosts gut bacteria. Psyllium is also known to be of benefit. It is a strong source of soluble fibre, but should always be consumed with water, as it swells in the gut and forms a gel which feeds beneficial bacteria. Other foods that are high in soluble fibre are oats, pulses/legumes, nuts and seeds, and vegetables. People who consume the highest levels of soluble fibre have the strongest microbiomes and the best immune systems. There was also a 2017 study showing a high fibre diet prevented intestinal injury during pelvic radiotherapy (10). It looks like a high fibre Rainbow diet then!

13. Diet and natural compounds improve radiotherapy outcomes:

A randomised, controlled clinical trial on Colorectal cancer showed that those patients having radiotherapy treatment who received professional dietary advice had significantly improved outcomes, over those who had none and those who had nourishment supplied by feeding pouches. Several American cancer centres advocate using a nutritious diet with radiotherapy, avoiding animal fats, cows’ dairy, and glucose/High Fructose Corn Syrup and, instead, consuming whole foods, an important part of the Rainbow diet, to nourish your body.  Studies showing that organic eggs, nuts and seeds and green vegetables which prompt gut bacteria to make B vitamins reduce side-effects of radiotherapy, such as hair loss.

2012 and 2013 research suggests Calorie Restriction (of 15 and up to 40 per cent less calories than ’normal’) by cutting carbohydrates can improve outcomes for radiotherapy.  

Raw carrots, beetroot, asparagus, avocado and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage etc. - especially strong in natural glutathione). In a 2018 study (11) on Nutrition recommendations for patients treated with radiotherapy the researchers stated that 'Adequate levels of Vitamin E, vitamin A, calcium. magnesium. thiamin, riboflavin and niacin must be emphasised'. 

14. Vitamin D - crucial in radiotherapy:

Vitamin D activates your immune system; there are receptor sites on T-cells in your Innate Immune system, and receptor sites on Dendritic Cells and receptor sites on B-cells which help the production of antibodies in the Adaptive Immune system. In other words, without enough vitamin D in your bloodstream, you don’t have an immune system that can attack cancer cells or defend you.  According to the Endocrine Society, levels should be 100 - 150 nmol/L, and people with cancer should go in the sun for 2-3 hours a day or take a supplement of 125 microgram per day. Vitamin D is crucial in enhancing radiotherapy outcomes. In the study above on the adequate levels of vitamins and minerals (Castro-Equiluz et al) the researchers also recommended Vitamin D supplementation stating that it was ‘The most important factor in pelvic radiotherapy outcomes’ (11).

15. A strong immune system important in radiotherapy:

People who consume the highest levels of soluble fibre have the best immune systems but you may have to supplement to keep your white cells high too. Natural herbs such as Cat’s Claw and Echinacea boost your white cells, as would Tumeric and Melatonin. Selenium, isoflavones (citrus or soy) and astragalus, a Chinese herb, have all been shown in research studies to make radiotherapy more effective. Indeed MD Anderson had research on their Website stating that astragalus ’doubles survival times’ if taken with radiotherapy (they have since removed this study). Grape Seed Extract, pine bark extract, beta-glucan and Essiac would be other white cell boosters.

16. Acupuncture makes a big difference in reducing side-effects:

Traditional Chinese Medicine can help - acupuncture can provide significant relief to patients having radiotherapy (12).

17. Keep your Liver clean when having radiotherapy:

To reduce the accumulation of dead cells, toxins and other side-effects in the liver consider mistletoe, magnesium (350 mg) and milk thistle which have been shown in research (see Cancer Watch) to reduce side effects particularly in the blood and liver. You could try the amino acid supplement N-Acetyl Cysteine which increases glutamine (which stimulates the liver to produce glutathione, which repairs damaged healthy cells), and L-Cysteine, which is particularly important in DNA repair.

18. If radiotherapy makes you tired:

Try Acetyl-L-Carnitine. Used by Olympic athletes for an energy boost after their activities, two Italian oncologists showed it would also help cancer patients regain their energy levels (13).

19. Calendula, aloe vera and skin problems with radiotherapy:

In clinical trials the herb Calendula beat the recommended drug used for radiotherapy burns (14). 99% Aloe vera, if you cannot use the real thing, is something else well-known for centuries to heal burns.

20. Ulcers, tiredness, bloating in radiotherapy:

Mouth sores, bloating and gut disturbances are not uncommon when having radiation Therapy. The usual cause is excess yeasts in the bloodstream. Damage to the microbiome results in the body’s failure to deal with the yeasts that come in with your food and some drinks. Yeasts make toxins, cause bloating and reduce blood oxygen amongst other things. Oregano oil kills yeasts in the bloodstream. 180 mg pills first thing in the morning, last thing at night from the first day of radiotherapy until the last day, 6 weeks after the end of the radiotherapy.



People who read this article also read the following articles:

Hyperbaric Oxygen - CLICK HERE

Cyberknife - CLICK HERE

Brachytherapy - CLICK HERE

Advances in Radiotherapy - CLICK HERE


  1. Radiotherapy - your questions answered
  2. Proton Beam Therapy
  3. CANCERactive Community
  4. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
  5. Aerobic Exercise and Radiotherapy
  6. Berberine a radiosensitiser
  7. Melatonin as a radiosensitiser in cancer
  8. Radioprotection and radiosensitisation by curcumin Adv Exp Med Biol 2007
  9. Washington Med School, Probiotics protect intestine from Radiation injury
  10. Randomised, controlled trial - dietary fibre for prevention of radiation induced gastrointestinal toxicity; Am. J. Clin. Nutr; 2017
  11. 2018; Rev Invest Clin 2018, Vitamin D and other minerals with radiotherapy Denisse Castro-Eguilez et al; 
  12. Acupuncture - https://www.canceractive.com/article/acupuncture-and%20cancer%20treatment
  13. Acetyl-L-Carnitine and fatigue - https://www.canceractive.com/article/acetyllcarnitine-benefits%20during%20and%20after%20chemotherapy
  14. A review of the use of Topical Calendula in prevention and treatment of Radiotherapy induced skin reactions; Antioxidants (Basel) 2015, June 4(2).


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