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20 ways to improve your Radiotherapy experience

20 tips for people having radiotherapy

Clinical research in 2012 and 2013 has shown that Calorie Restriction improves the results of radiotherapy. But then, so does exercise and Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, and melatonin (even the mighty Sloan Kettering says this). And flaxseed, astragalus, milk thistle, mistletoe and others can be important adjuncts to radiotherapy. Improved results, less side-effects. But smoking can increase the dangerous side-effects.

20 things you need to know about radiotherapy

1. What is radiotherapy? 

Many people with cancer will be offered radiotherapy which is often claimed to be orthodox medicine´s number 1 weapon against cancer. Radiotherapy uses high-speed ionising radiation, similar to X-rays, to attack the DNA in abnormal (cancerous) cells. If it hits the DNA when it is dividing, a nonsensical code sequence will be produced and the body´s natural defence system will throw the rogue cells out. At least, that´s the theory.

Techniques are being developed all the time to try to kill more of the cancerous cells and less of the surrounding healthy ones (for example the Cyberknife)

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 be noted that radiotherapy can go on working for up to four to six weeks after the treatment has ´officially´ stopped.

Radiotherapy´s effectiveness has to be balanced against the possible risks and a responsible oncologist will explain potential side-effects to you fully. The medical journal, The Lancet cautioned that ´patients should be made aware of possible side effects as these are not insignificant´.

However there is much you can do for yourself:

1: Patients undertaking radiotherapy need to manage their body, and not simply allow themselves to be passive targets. By this we mean patients can take action to protect the healthy organs, the blood vessels and bones; protect the immune system; keep the blood and liver detoxified; and help the immune cells kick out the cancer.

2: Ask your consultant whether they consider there to be active cancer cells in the area, or is the radiotherapy a precautionary measure? Is this the optimum time for this treatment, or would it be better to hold it in reserve? If you have radiotherapy now, can you have further treatment in the future? Is it to be used as a cure or symptom relief? (A lot less radiation is needed for symptom relief).

3: What would the doctor consider to be a successful outcome at the end of the treatment? For example

       a) no tumour remaining?
       b) a reduction in tumour size? Or,
       c) another outcome?

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?

4: Ask what exactly the possible side-effects might be and what other organs and tissues will receive radiaton as well as the target area? Will the beam be modulated in any way to minimise damage? What are the chances of it causing long-term damage to surrounding organs and/or bones? 2014 research linked breast cancer radiotherapy to a dangerous form of lung cancer (especially in smokers). Ask whether Proton Beam Therapy would be a safer option; and, if not, why not?

5: Oxygen definitely pre-sensitises cancer cells so that more are killed by the action of radiotherapy. Kansas State Medical School have shown that exercise before and during radiotherapy makes the treatment more successful - and there are several studies for HYPERBARIC OXYGEN (HBOT): it can also help minimise side-effects and even restore healthy tissue by promoting healing. HBOT can be used to help overcome side-effects for up to a year after radiotherapy. 

6: Ask Sleep well. There is clear evidence that sleeping well in a dark room increases the production of Melatonin in the body. This is a natural hormone that knocks you into a deeper sleep. However, it is also the largest anti-oxidant 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, that supplements of 20 mg of melatonin can greatly improve the success of radiotherapy and reduce side-effects.

Read: Melatonin - self-defence against cancer 

7: Diet is important in radiotherapy. For example, in 2011, the University of Pennsylvania showed a diet rich in flaxseed could reduce harm and even repair tissues after damage. Human clinical trials come next. Then Washington State Medical School showed that taking probiotics could reduce damage to the intestines and the intestinal lining. Several American cancer centres advocate using a nutritious diet with radiotherapy, avoiding animal fats, cows´ dairy, and glucose/High Fructose Corn Syrup whilst eating whole foods as part of a Rainbow diet to nourish your body. 2012 and 2013 research suggests Calorie Restriction (of 15 and up to 40 per cent less calories than ´normal´) can improve outcomes for radiotherapy.  

 What other organs and tissues will receive radiation? 

8: Seleniumisoflavones (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 it). Vitamin D  is increasingly recommended by US and some UK hospitals and also seems to improve the success of the treatment programme. It activates the immune system and has an anti-inflammatory effect on the stomach and gut.


9: Go to a cranial osteopath and/or acupuncturist, as soon as you find out you have cancer. They will balance and strengthen your body energy systems. Start taking daily light exercise for about 30 minutes if possible; try a yoga course and meditation.

10: Cut cancer-stimulating common salt, animal fats, dairy and glucose?HFCS as much as possible. Eat whole foods. Replace all chocolate, coffee and tea drinks with green tea. EGCG in green tea seems to have a protective effect on healthy cells and enhances radiotherapy´s success with cancer cells. 

11: Essiac, astragalus, cat´s claw, echinacea, grape seed extract, pine bark extract will all boost your immune system. Other supplements such as curcumin, lycopene, natural vitamin C with bioflavenoids, natural vitamin E (with all 4 tocopherols and all 4 tocotrienols), natural beta-carotene (chlorella would be a good alternative but natural source) can help too. MGN-3 Biobran may also be worth looking into. The suppliers have produced clinical trials that show it boosts the immune system significantly.   

12: Research shows curcumin (turmeric) can reduce damage to your body. You could also consider cod liver oil and garlic (fresh or supplements) and a vitamin B complex, with 400 mcgs of folic acid. The latter helps protect healthy cells. Cod liver oil 

13: Next, you could try the amino acid supplement N-Acetyl Cysteine containing glutamine (which stimulates the liver to produce glutathione, which repairs damaged healthy cells), and L-Cysteine, which is particularly important in DNA repair.

14: Instead of taking supplements, you could, of course, improve your diet when having radiotherapy - eat a rainbow of colours across the week: lots of raw carrots, beetroot, asparagus, avocado and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage etc) which are especially strong in glutathione; plus kelp, free-range eggs and garlic for L-cysteine and folate to keep healthy cells safer. And go out in the sunshine for 120 minutes every day for vitamin D (or supplement with 5,000 IUs).

15: To reduce the accumulation of dead cells, toxins and other side-effects in the liver consider mistletoe and milk thistle which have been shown in research (see Cancer Watch) to reduce side effects particularly in the blood and liver. We have an important article elsewhere on this website on the benefits of medicinal mushrooms, which you would be well advised to read. Magnesium will help strengthen the liver and 3gms of soya lecithin a day will help the liver break down the excess fats lying there. Boldo tea and dandelion help eliminate toxins from the liver, as would Epsom Salts and coffee enemas. Drink plenty of clean water.

During the radiotherapy and for 6 weeks afterwards

16: Keep on going to your chosen energy therapist (the cranial osteopath and/or acupuncturist) and practising regular yoga and meditation, though you will probably be too tired to exercise fully. Stay out of bright sunshine, as radiotherapy can "burn" the skin. Wash the area only in cold water and apply cooling aloe vera gel. In clinical trials the herb calendula beat the recommended drug used for such burns.

17: The very latest research from both MD Anderson and UCLA confirms that it is advantageous to keep taking all the supplements.  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.

18: Drinking peppermint or ginger tea or slippery elm powder dissolved with soya milk and hot water may calm the stomach and help with any nausea. Consider taking the supplement carnitine if fatigue is a problem. Italian doctors have identified the cause of fatigue during radiotherapy as low levels of carnitine circulating in the blood stream.

 Detox after three, six and nine weeks 

19: Keep your liver strong: Detox the liver with a liver flush, after three, six and nine weeks.Eat magnesium-rich foods, take soya lecithin, vitamin K, milk thistle, dandelion and continue drinking pure water and avoiding fats, oils and sugar/glucose.

Post Radiotherapy

20: Rebuild your gut as soon as possible. It is ´responsible´ for your immune system. You could, of course supplement to help regenerate a strong, healthy immune system quickly with echinacea, cat´s claw, astragalus, curcumin, beta-glucans and grape seed extract; but research shows that people who eat the highest natural fibre diets have the best immune systems. Of course, you need a good range of bacteria, so take a good probiotic, and top up the ones you lost with raw unpasteurised cheese, Kefir, and sauerkraut. Go To: Heal Ur Gut 


Readers interested in any of the supplements above can click the links to read full reviews on each.

If you are already thinking of buying these products you should look for reputable suppliers of naturally sourced compounds containing full ranges of the particular compound (not synthetic, deficient copies). In America you might like to consider Dr Mercola. In the UK you might look at the Natural Selection Products of Choice by clicking this link. There are also non-toxic products available on that site that could help with radiotherapy burns, like Aloe vera, or Radiance Skin Care .

For more general dietary information refer to Chris Woollams´ best-selling book The Rainbow Diet - and how it can help you beat cancer.  For more details on radiotherapy and how to combat the side effects, refer to his best-seller Everything You Need To Know To Help You Beat Cancer.

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

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