Going Through Radiotherapy For Breast Cancer? Better Take Curcumin!
If you are currently going through radiotherapy for breast cancer, you would be well advised to include curcumin in your daily supplement regime. I’ll share why in a moment.
First, however, a little rant. I am frequently told by women going through breast cancer that when they asked their oncologist or their radiologist whether there were certain supplements which would help them get through the treatments, without much variation they are told “Just eat what you want to, evidence doesn’t support that a certain diet or supplements will help you.”
THIS IS JUST PLAIN WRONG!
Anyone who advises that nutrition is unimportant for people going through cancer is both ill-informed and dangerous. Ill-informed because the research is out there! Evidence that nutrition makes a huge difference is comprehensive. And I say they are dangerous because such advice causes vulnerable people to ignore or disregard a source of significant help which would improve both their quality of life and their survival. Good nutrition can indeed reduce the risk of developing cancer, it can slow the rate of progression, and it can very effectively stop recurrences. Okay, rant over. Back to curcumin and how it can help with radiotherapy.
Should you not be familiar with curcumin, it is a yellow pigment derived from turmeric, a common root used for spice and cooking.
In a 2007 study, Radioprotection and Radiosensitization By Curcumin, researchers found that curcumin “…has been reported to protect various study systems against the deleterious effects induced by ionizing radiation and to enhance the effect of radiation. Therefore, curcumin can be very useful during radiotherapy of cancer. Administration of curcumin in patients will be able to kill the tumor cells effectively by enhancing the effect of radiation and, at the same time, protect normal cells against the harmful effects of radiation.”
In plainer language, this means that curcumin was found to be protective against the harmful effects that occur as a result of radiotherapy, and that curcumin actually enhanced the effect of radiotherapy.
The available information on curcumin suggests that its protective effects may be due to its ability to reduce oxidative stress and inhibit transcription of the genes related to oxidative stress and inflammatory responses. In addition, curcumin’s ability to enhance radiotherapy could be due to the upregulation of genes responsible for cell death.
I think the best article, and the most relevant one to date is The Effect Of Curcumin On Breast Cancer Cells published in the Journal of Breast Cancer in June 2013. Although this one didn’t study curcumin’s effects for those going through radiotherapy for breast cancer, take the time to read the study because it will make a believer out of you that curcumin has a powerful chemotherapeutic role to play in the treatment of breast cancer.
GET MY BEST TIPS on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right. You can also “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates. I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.
I was contacted this week by one of my Facebook fans, a lady who is 44, normally in good health, but currently undergoing radiation treatments for breast cancer. She told me that she began suffering (in her words) the worst chest pain, thought she was having a heart attack, so she went to the hospital ER and was diagnosed with pericarditis.
What Is Pericarditis?
Pericarditis is caused by inflammation of the pericardium, which is the sac that surrounds the heart. The pericardium exists to protect the heart and reduce friction between the heart and surrounding organs.
When the pericardium gets inflamed, it can be pretty uncomfortable, bordering on agonizing (especially when taking a deep breath). According to uptodate.com, Some of the causes of pericarditis can be drugs and toxins, infection, trauma, kidney failure, cancerous tumors, rheumatic diseases such as lupus, gastrointestinal diseases such as Crohn’s, and yes, you guessed it, radiation therapy.
While this lady’s cardiologist believes the pericarditis could very well be caused by her radiation therapy, her radiation oncologist said “No way, you haven’t had enough treatments for that to happen.” She had undergone 11 treatments when the chest pain began.
So now she doesn’t know what to do, or who to believe. She doesn’t want to resume the radiotherapy, believing it could be creating the pericarditis. Can’t say I blame her. Time to go into research mode.
Ralph Moss Speaks on Radiotherapy and Heart Disease Risk
I found a very interesting article written by Ralph W Moss, PhD, “Radiation Therapy for Breast Cancer“. In his article, Dr Moss (who wrote the book “Cancer Therapy”, among others) mentions a study published in the March 7, 2007 Journal of the National Cancer Institute (JNCI) which revealed that radiation increases the risk of heart disease in women who receive it following surgery for breast cancer. Dr Moss states “The JNCI study is unquestionably a major blow to the orthodox medical profession’s insistent claims that radiation has evolved into a safe modality for the post-operative treatment of breast cancer.”
Dr Moss goes on to state, “In the JNCI study, researchers at the Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam evaluated 4,414 breast cancer patients who survived for at least ten years after receiving radiotherapy between the years 1970 and 1986. The patients were followed for a median of 18 years. These patients’ rates of cardiovascular disease were then compared with those seen in the general population (Hooning 2007). In other words, this was a very large and prolonged study. There were a total of 942 ‘cardiovascular events’ during the follow-up period. The good news was that radiation therapy limited to the breast itself did not increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. However, when either the left or right internal mammary chain of lymph nodes was included in the radiation field, as is common in post-operative radiotherapy, it did significantly increase that risk.”
The fact that radiation of the breast increases the risk of heart disease is not a new finding. Clear back in the 1960s, it became known that, after receiving adjuvant radiation to prevent breast cancer recurrence, quite a few women were dying of heart disease, often decades after their breast cancer diagnosis (Fajardo 2001). Apparently, there were so many women dying from the long-term adverse effects of radiation therapy, it overturned any survival benefit that the treatment supposedly conferred.
When you consider the fact that some chemotherapy drugs (most notably Adriamycin and Herceptin) also increase the risk of cardiotoxicity, it is truly worrisome and each patient must carefully consider these facts before commencing therapies.
Secondly (and particularly if continuing radiation therapy isn’t something she wants to do), contact an oncologist naturopath (you can locate one in your area by contacting the Oncology Association of Naturopathic Physicians (www.OncANP.org).
If you are not familiar with what a naturopath does, this description comes from the OncANP website: “Naturopathic Physicians diagnose, treat, and help prevent diseases using a system of practice that is based on the natural healing capacity of individuals. They may use physiological, psychological or mechanical methods. They may also use natural medicines, prescription or legend drugs, foods, herbs, or other natural remedies.”
I chose to work with a naturopath, among many other things, because after going through chemotherapy, I just felt like my body could not endure one more toxic therapy so rather than going forward with radiation therapy, I chose to rebuild my body using particular foods, herbs, supplements, exercise and meditation I knew I needed badly. I was under the care of a naturopath, I had regular chiropractic adjustments and acupuncture treatments (since we are electrical bodies and optimal functioning of nerves and muscles and bones do need regular tune-ups). I also used very particular essential oils to help rebuild my immune system and increase breast health. Check out my page “Essential Oils For Overall Health and Specific Health Problems” for more information about that.
Radiation Therapy for Breast Cancer, by Ralph W Moss: http://www.encognitive.com/node/1574
Fajardo LR, et al. Radiation Pathology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.
Hooning MJ, Botma A, Aleman BM, et al. – Long-term risk of cardiovascular disease in 10-year survivors of breast cancer, J Natl Cancer Inst, 2007
If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters and e-book on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com). It is my honor and my goal to help you through this so that you emerge from breast cancer feeling better than before, thriving!
How To Detox Your Body After Chemotherapy & Radiation
Although your body does a great job of detoxing all on its own – at least when you’re healthy – when you’ve been through chemotherapy and/or radiation, your body is overloaded with chemical residues. It is important to detox after chemotherapy and/or radiation to get that residue out of your body – and you’re going to feel so much better if you do.
An overload of toxins is known to cause bloating, fatigue, headaches, poor memory, aching muscles, a suppressed immune system (which is the very thing you’re relying on to keep you well), even halitosis (bad breath). Toxic buildup within the body can also be a problem if you have had lymph nodes removed because our lymphatic system acts as another method of waste removal, and this toxic buildup can worsen the side effects of lymphedema.
Once chemotherapy and radiation are finished and these strong treatments have done their work, the body is filled with toxins. Radiation can damage healthy cells and create toxic buildup and if you think about it, even cancer cells themselves become toxins as they wither up and die from the treatments. The body does its best to get rid of all this, but I certainly felt the difference after a good bowel cleanse subsequent to chemotherapy, and many others have reported the same.
Make sure you’re strong enough to undergo cleansing, however. Consult with your physician or naturopath before embarking on cleansing. You might find it necessary to wait a number of weeks or even months if you are too weak but the sooner you get started detoxing, the better you will feel. Even if you are too weak, you can still increase your water intake, do some gentle exercise and begin juicing (for more on juicing, keep reading).
How To Detox Your Body After Chemotherapy & Radiation – 10 Tips
1. Colonic Hydrotherapy – Colonic hydrotherapy can be of assistance not only after chemotherapy but also during to help alleviate the terrible constipation that often results from chemotherapy. Your medical staff may argue the efficacy of chemotherapy (I had one nurse tell me that we are designed for wastes to move ONE way and we shouldn’t go against that!) but it really helps tremendously. I went through a course of colonic hydrotherapy post-chemo and found it to be a gentle and effective method for toxin and waste cleansing. There’s nothing new about colonics – Egyptians were using it for constipation centuries ago. If you’d like to read one person’s experience with it, click here.
2. Drink Plenty of Water, Herbal Tea – This is the most natural way to detox your body after chemotherapy. Make sure your drinking water is filtered (and preferably not obtained from plastic water bottles) to help keep you safe from herbicides, pesticides, and other assorted nasties that our water can often contain. We used to hear that drinking 8 glasses of water per day was essential, however, newer studies have shown that as long as you are sipping away on water all day you are probably getting what you need. Put in a slice of lemon for some additional flavor, cleansing qualities and antioxidant protection. Herbal teas are also wonderful to help the cleansing process, particularly dandelion tea which is a liver tonic.
3. Juicing, Juicing, Juicing – It seems like I am always touting the benefits of juicing organic vegetables and fruits but their importance for health cannot be overstressed. Make sure you have a great juicer though, as not all juicers are designed to keep the living enzymes within your expensive organic produce alive! Here’s a great one, this is the one I use (and it’s a great price). Live juices can help to heal, rejuvenate, and flush away toxins. Fresh vegetable and fruit juices are the cleansers, energizers, regenerators, and blood builders of the human body. Try any combination of beet (great blood cleanser), kale, spinach, carrot, cucumber, apple, ginger and pineapple (both great anti-inflammatories, so that makes them anti-cancer as well). Blueberries, strawberries and raspberries are full of antioxidants and help to cleanse the blood of impurities. See my page Diet and Cancer for some data on why certain veggies and fruit are good for cancer. I have loads of articles on my website about the benefits of juicing, so be sure to check them out as well.
4. Circulate Your Blood – Something as simple as bouncing on a rebounder (one of those mini trampolines) for 10 minutes a couple of times per day helps to get your heart pumping, blood circulating and toxins flushing out of your body. Best done BEFORE a meal or juicing, however! Walking, cycling, hiking, dancing, yoga – all of these are great to get the body moving and detoxing. Make sure you drink plenty of filtered water after exercising.
5. Fiber – Fiber helps to grab onto toxins in your digestive tract. Fiber soaks up toxins rather like a sponge, speeds up elimination, helps with cleansing. Natural fiber is available from fruits, vegetables and whole grains, however there are also plenty of fiber products on the market which you could add to your health regimen. One particularly good one is freshly ground organic flaxseed.
6. Herbal Medicine – There are many herbs and essential oils which will assist you in detoxing after chemotherapy and radiation. Milk thistle is a particularly good herb for liver cleansing. I would definitely recommend seeking the advice of a qualified naturopath before using herbal medicine, however, because they are specifically trained in herbal medicine and since herbs can sometimes have drug interactions you would want the best guidance possible for your particular needs.
7. Eating Organic Food – Because at this stage you are working towards detoxing and keeping well and healthy, your best bet is to avoid processed and sugar-laden foods as these will not assist the detox process. Eating plenty of organic fruits, vegetables and lean meats like fish or chicken is much more conducive to keeping your system clear of any further toxins. Google “raw food recipes” for some really great suggestions and recipes that appeal to you.
8. Epsom Salt Baths – There is something so restorative about a hot epsom salt bath! Hot water opens the pores and assists perspiration to take toxins away. Epsom salt is actually magnesium sulfate, and these two minerals help generate enzymes that clean up the body. To make it a totally revitalizing experience, add lavender essential oil for its calming effects, or ginger which also helps to open the pores and is a good natural anti-inflammatory. If you don’t have epsom salts, baking soda is also useful and it helps to neutralize the effects of radiation. This is another place where water filtration is important because if you live in an area where the water is highly chlorinated you are soaking all that chlorine up into your body through the skin. Chlorine certainly has carcinogenic potential, according to several studies    
9. Detox Your Household – You might not think about this, but if your body and skin care products are laden with toxins you are taking all of those into your body via the skin as well. If you wouldn’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin or hair. I would be doing you a disservice if I didn’t mention the importance of using organic body products and cosmetics when you are detoxing your body. There are several good brands out there, contact me if you need help finding good ones.
10. You Must Rebuild Your Immune System – Since your immune system is your first line of defense against cancer and all other diseases, you must rebuild it because the chemotherapy and radiation treatments will have blasted the hell out of the very thing you are relying upon to stay well. Yes, your body may eventually do this on its own, but the process is generally quite slow and we don’t want to give any open doors to stray cancer cells. Here’s my page on how to build immunity quickly so that it’s very strong: 8 Ways To Build A Super Strong Immune System.
I know that’s a lot of things to think about, but if you are determined to get well and stay well, incorporating even just two or three of these suggestions into your life will be very helpful.
 Assessment of the Carcinogenic Potential of Chlorinated Water: Experimental Studies of Chlorine, Chloramine, and Trihalomethanes – https://academic.oup.com/jnci/article-abstract/85/10/817/1024456
 High Organochlorine Body Burden in Women With Estrogen Receptor-Positive Breast Cancer – http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.975.5525&rep=rep1&type=pdf
 The association of drinking water source and chlorination by-products with cancer incidence among postmenopausal women in Iowa: a prospective cohort study. – https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/abs/10.2105/AJPH.87.7.1168
 Case-control cancer mortality study and chlorination of drinking water in Louisiana – https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/doi/abs/10.1289/ehp.8246169
If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, and/or “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach). It is my honor and my goal to help you through this, so that you are better than before, thriving!
One of my subscribers just shared with me that she chose to have prone breast radiation, as opposed to the usual supine, or face-up style of radiation.
I hadn’t heard of this before so I’ve just done some research for you and wanted to share it with you. Color me impressed!
Minimizes Damage to Cardiac and Lung Tissue
What I liked about the research on prone breast radiation is that with the breast dangling down away from the body during radiation in the prone position, radiation exposure to the surrounding organs and tissues, such as the heart and lungs, is minimized. This lowers the risk of complications, such as future heart disease and lung damage, which was a definite deciding factor for me when I decided against radiotherapy.
Adjuvant radiotherapy to the breast appears to contribute to improved outcomes in persons with breast cancer after breast-preservation surgery, however, whole breast radiotherapy is associated with damage to the heart and lung, increased cardiovascular mortality, and the development of lung cancer, acknowledged Dr Silvia C Formenti, of the NYU School of Medicine, New York, and colleagues in a JAMA research letter (2012;308:861-863). Some patients are apparently having problems with supine breast radiation some 15 to 20 years after treatment.
Video Shows More
I found a You Tube video showing the equipment – it’s rather like an info-mercial so you might want to ignore the obvious selling component, but the video does show you the positioning of the patient and the breast so you can see how it all works.
As with most new technology, this is not available in all areas, it is generally only available in larger treatment centers in major cities. But as I mentioned in my article on hyperthermia we are going to have to start demanding the equipment and treatments that provide us with the best technology and chances for living disease-free. Ask your doctor – the more people who ask for this (and sometimes we have to educate our doctors!) the more chances this type of radiotherapy will become more mainstream and available.
If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com). It is my honor to help you through this.
A few of my coaching clients have asked me about my decision not to undergo radiation therapy on my breast after I finished chemotherapy.
Okay, so here goes.
It wasn’t an easy decision to make, I debated about it backwards and forwards for what seemed like weeks but was probably only about 10 days. The pressure on me was enormous from both my oncologist and the radiotherapy department to which he’d referred me.
But I wasn’t about to be rushed or bullied (yes, bullied – one person who called me from the radiotherapy department tried everything she could think of to get me in there for this treatment).
Here are my reasons for not doing radiotherapy:
1. We lived an hour away from the radiotherapy facility, so the traveling would have been grueling, two hours per day of just car time, 5 times per week for 6 weeks. Add another hour for the actual treatment and waiting for it. I still needed to work! Be that as it may, if i believed it would actually help me, I would have done it.
2. I hated the idea of the side effects I knew were waiting for me – fatigue, sensations of sunburn, possible injury to the heart, possible lung inflammation, possible nerve damage and even generation of cancer stem cells, although I didn’t know about that last item at the time. I just wasn’t willing to risk all of that, especially after already having been through 6 months of chemotherapy.
3. After visiting with a radiologist, I found out that for me personally radiation only improved my survival chances by about 3-5%.
I could see that my stress levels and quality of life were going to seriously suffer for 6 weeks.
Here’s what I did instead:
I had been studying natural medicine for several years. I knew of so many other things I could do that would enhance my health and not impact my sanity, my immune system or my working life as much as radiation would.
Here’s what I did (and I don’t say you should do this too – I am just sharing information here, you have to do what’s right for you):
Every morning after a hot shower I spread across my chest two particular essential oils and every 3 days, I would change that pair of oils. Click on the link to see which essential oils I used. The hot shower helped open my pores so that the oils penetrated more deeply.
I then went back to bed and utilized a specific healing visualization that brought white light into my body.
I took in plenty of good nutrition – see my page Diet and Cancer for a list of the best ones.
And that’s it. At the end of 6 weeks, I was positively glowing with health. I’m still 100% healthy.
As I said, I’m not saying you should do exactly what I did, you must find your own healing path. I just wanted you to know there are other ways of achieving health.
GET MY BEST TIPS on healthy ways to beat breast cancer and prevent recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right. You can also “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates. I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.
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About Marnie Clark
Hi I'm Marnie Clark, breast cancer survivor, and breast cancer coach. I have 20+ years of experience in natural medicine. In 2004/05 I battled breast cancer myself. You can see more about my journey on my page Breast Cancer Diary.
I've been healthy and recurrence-free since 2004 and in 2012 I became a Breast Cancer Coach because I became aware of the fact that whilst there is now a wealth of information on the Internet, much of it is confusing, conflicting, and sometimes just wrong!
Why should you work with me? Because:
(1) You don't want to go through this journey alone, feeling unempowered, frightened or just plain
clueless about what to do to help yourself.
(2) You will have someone working tirelessly on your behalf, putting together a healing plan for
you so you don’t have to lose your precious energy researching what food you should eat,
what supplements you should take, and what other things you can do that will give you the
best chances for survival. Instead you can spend that time resting, meditating, healing.
(3) You will learn what questions to ask your doctor (and have someone to turn to for the
questions they can't or won't answer).
(4) You will be armed with the tools and strategies you will need to get through the therapies you
choose so you can make your body hostile terrain for cancer.
You can also “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates. I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.