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Health Protocols

Cancer Radiation Therapy

Cancer radiation therapy, or radiotherapy, involves precisely delivering high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Along with surgery and chemotherapy, radiation therapy is one of the most important methods of cancer treatment. About half of all cancer patients receive radiotherapy during the course of their treatment (NCI 2010; Orth 2014; NCI 2015).

One of the central challenges with radiotherapy is that it is difficult to administer radiation only to cancer cells. Radiation can also damage healthy cells near the tumor. Damage to normal cells causes side effects and limits the amount of radiation a patient can tolerate.

New methods of delivering radiotherapy aim to increase precision and minimize damage to healthy tissue. Promising emerging techniques include intensity-modulated radiation therapy, proton therapy, and CyberKnife therapy. These technologically advanced forms of radiotherapy cause less damage to normal tissue because the radiation can be focused more accurately on the tumor (Baskar 2012; Bucci 2005; NCI 2010; Bast 2000). Researchers are also developing methods, such as therapeutic hyperthermia, to make cancer cells more sensitive to radiation (Rycaj 2014; Ogawa, Yoshioka 2013; Peeken 2017).

Despite potentially serious side effects, radiation is a fundamental aspect of cancer treatment (Kaliberov 2012; Baskar 2014; Kaur 2011). Fortunately, several natural interventions have been shown to offset some of these side effects when used in conjunction with radiotherapy. For instance, probiotics may ease radiation-induced diarrhea (Delia 2007; Liu, Li 2017), Boswellia serrata may help brain swelling (Kirste 2011), cranberry may alleviate bladder inflammation (Hamilton 2015; Bonetta 2012), and Calendula officinalis may ease skin burns caused by radiation (Pommier 2004). Also, some natural products such as genistein found in soy, curcumin from the culinary herb turmeric, and resveratrol found in grapes and Japanese knotweed (Sebastia 2014) may help sensitize cancer cells to radiation.

The aim of this protocol is to empower cancer patients and their families with knowledge about basic principles of radiation therapy and strategies to optimize radiation therapy response. Readers will also learn strategies to protect healthy cells from the damaging effects of radiation therapy without interfering with the cancer-killing efficacy of radiotherapy.