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Topic: anything to help against radiation damage?

Forum: Complementary and Holistic Medicine and Treatment — Complementary medicine refers to treatments that are used WITH standard treatment. Holistic medicine is a term used to describe therapies that attempt to treat the patient as a whole person.

Posted on: May 17, 2017 09:25PM

marycal wrote:

Hi everyone,

I'm wondering if anyone is doing anything specific before/during/after radiation treatment to help keep the immune system from being suppressed, and just in general to help your body deal with radiation. Also, I'm under the assumption that radiation damage is irreversible, but do you know if there is anything that can help mitigate damage? Any complementary treatments, supplements, nutrition, etc.

Thanks so much!

LX did not get clean margins on DCIS. MX showed DCIS scattered throughout and also LCIS. Dx 5/26/2017, DCIS, Left, 3cm, Stage 0, Grade 2, ER+/PR+ Dx 5/26/2017, IDC, Left, 1cm, Stage IA, Grade 1, 0/2 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- Surgery 7/11/2017 Mastectomy: Left; Prophylactic mastectomy: Right; Reconstruction (left): DIEP flap; Reconstruction (right): DIEP flap Surgery Lumpectomy: Left; Lymph node removal: Sentinel
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May 17, 2017 11:16PM - edited May 17, 2017 11:52PM by ShetlandPony

In my opinion, getting good sleep and eating enough protein ought to help the body heal during and after radiation. Our bodies repair while we sleep. Also, I would stay out of the sun during treatment. I don't think damage is necessarily irreversible.

2011 Stage I ILC ER+PR+ Her2- 1.5 cm grade 1, ITCs sn. Lumpectomy, radiation, tamoxifen. 2014 Stage IV ILC ER+PR+Her2- grade 2, mets to breast, liver, retroperitoneal nodes. Taxol NEAD. 2015,2016 Ibrance+letrozole. 2017 Faslodex+Afnitor; Xeloda
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May 17, 2017 11:29PM ChiSandy wrote:

Hydration and nutrition are key. With any injury, healing requires protein. Try to eat more of it, whether animal or vegetable (if the latter, make sure you’re properly combining the types to get complete protein). Drink as much water as you can. You can’t prevent the immunosuppression (which is much milder than that of chemo), but you can take precautions to lessen the chance of an infection: hand washing, avoiding crowds in close spaces whenever possible. And be kind to yourself when it comes to rest—don’t fight the fatigue if it happens, allow yourself to give in (and give others the finger if they’re unsympathetic).

The damage to the stray tumor cells is—hopefully—irreversible. But take heart: the damage to your skin WILL heal. The damage (sometimes mistakenly referred to as a “burn”) occurs from the inside out. With a true burn, the skin is damaged by external forces and the epidermis (outer layer) will be damaged before the dermis (the layer in which skin cells are generated) is involved, if at all (such as in a third-degree burn). When the dermis generates skin cells to replenish the ones that die off normally every day, the cells make their way to the stratum corneum (outer layer of the epidermis). With radiation damage, the tissue beneath the dermis is damaged first, and the ability of the dermis to generate and replenish skin cells is impaired for awhile. What looks like “burn” damage is epidermal cells dying off as they normally would but not replaced with skin cells generated by the dermis. This will go on for awhile during treatment, worsen for awhile after finishing (remember, the damage is still happening inside the breast), but then reverse itself faster than it first occurred. Patience is the best weapon in your arsenal.

Now, as I said, the whole point of radiation is to damage any stray cells that may remain in the breast (especially the tumor cavity or “bed”). Free radicals are generated, causing oxidative tissue damage in reaction to the radiation. Normally, you’d want to get rid of free radicals to prevent oxidation, and anti-oxidants in foods and sometimes supplements are desirable in order to do that. But since oxidative damage is the whole point of both chemo and radiation, taking anti-oxidant supplements during this time and until you begin to heal is the worst thing you can do! (The amounts of anti-oxidants present in normal moderate portions of food are fine, however).

So eat wisely and healthfully as you normally would (or aspire to do), except with more protein. But stop taking Vitamin C and E and other anti-oxidant supplements until your oncologist green-lights you to resume.

You can’t and shouldn’t “lube up” before starting treatment to avoid skin damage—if it’s gonna happen, it’s gonna happen (sometimes it may not or may be mild—no way to know in advance). It’s okay to moisturize now, but know it has nothing to do with preventing radiation skin damage. Anything beyond your normal routine is like flushing time & money down the toilet. Once your treatments start, it’s okay to apply Aquaphor or whatever your RO suggests or hands out immediately after each treatment and again at bedtime. Some say aloe doesn’t help. 100% pure, clear, unscented, no-alcohol aloe gel (Fruit of the Earth, dirt cheap) did soothe me, as did calendula cream (I used Boiron, which I bought at Whole Foods). You want to avoid any irritants—and that also includes scented soaps or body washes as well as antiperspirant or even some natural deodorants. (You probably won’t sweat under your arms for awhile anyway, nor will armpit hair grow). Use cornstarch (apply gently) if you need to avoid getting clammy. If you must shave, use a well-maintained electric razor. And before you leave for each treatment, completely shower off anything you’d applied the night before.

Finally, do what you can clothing-wise to avoid irritating the radiated area, especially avoiding skin-on-skin contact under your breast. If you don’t want to or can’t wear a bra, some clean soft cloth (like t-shirt material) worn between the breast & midriff helps a lot. I was lucky enough to get partial-breast radiation, and the “field” didn’t include where my bra’s underwires hit. So I wore my normal bras the whole time, though I did find soft-cup wire-free ones less constricting (even though they didn’t support as well). Wearing a bra, even for sleep (soft cotton knit front-hook leisure or nursing bras) prevented skin-on-skin contact.

Meditation, qi gong, tai chi, yoga, massage and acupuncture (avoiding both the operated & radiated areas, as well as the arm & side of your trunk at risk for lymphedema) are helpful if you find them helpful and comforting. The placebo effect often works. But these therapies should be integrative and complementary—they shouldn’t replace medical treatments.

Diagnosed at 64 on routine annual mammo, no lump. OncotypeDX 16. I cried because I had no shoes...but then again, I won’t get blisters.... Dx 9/9/2015, IDC, Right, 1cm, Stage IA, Grade 2, 0/4 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- Surgery 9/23/2015 Lumpectomy: Right Radiation Therapy 11/2/2015 3DCRT: Breast Hormonal Therapy 12/31/2015 Femara (letrozole)
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May 25, 2017 11:07AM marycal wrote:

Thank you both for the advice!!

ChiSandy - this is all great info. I definitely appreciate the guidance as far as they skin goes.

I get that the point of rads is to irreversibly damage the stray cancer cells, but unfortunately, it's a fact that it also damages healthy cells and tissue. Although it's much more targeted these days, there is a fair amount of scatter. That is what I am concerned with, and I just don't know if there is anything anyone can do about it. I was hoping someone had some info on that.

LX did not get clean margins on DCIS. MX showed DCIS scattered throughout and also LCIS. Dx 5/26/2017, DCIS, Left, 3cm, Stage 0, Grade 2, ER+/PR+ Dx 5/26/2017, IDC, Left, 1cm, Stage IA, Grade 1, 0/2 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- Surgery 7/11/2017 Mastectomy: Left; Prophylactic mastectomy: Right; Reconstruction (left): DIEP flap; Reconstruction (right): DIEP flap Surgery Lumpectomy: Left; Lymph node removal: Sentinel
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Jun 25, 2017 05:09PM ML1209 wrote:

Sandy - thanks for this info!! Would you suggest to stop taking a multi-vitamin during rads? Mine contains Vit C and E.

Diagnosed age 48, Oncotype 35 Dx 11/2016, IDC, Right, 2cm, Grade 3, 0/4 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- Chemotherapy 12/28/2016 Surgery 5/23/2017 Lumpectomy: Right; Lymph node removal: Sentinel Radiation Therapy 7/9/2017 Whole-breast: Breast Chemotherapy AC + T (Taxol)
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Jun 25, 2017 08:58PM MinusTwo wrote:

My MO and RO both said to stop taking any antioxidents during treatment - A, C, & E - but I could take a multi vitamin that has small amounts

2/15/11 BMX-DCIS 2SNB clear-TEs; 9/15/11-410gummies; 3/20/13 recurrance-5.5cm,mets to lymphs, Stage IIIB IDC ER/PRneg,HER2+; TCH/Perjeta/Neulasta x6; ALND 9/24/13 1/18 nodes 4.5cm; AC chemo 10/30/13 x3; herceptin again; Rads Feb2014
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Jul 9, 2017 11:05AM pipers_dream wrote:

Look into sulforaphane, a broccoli compound. Or you could grow broccoli sprouts yourself. Aloe vera also supposed to be good and I would use it on the skin and drink it too. Other than that, not sure but there is lots of useful advice in Natural Strategies for Cancer Patients by Russell Blaylock. He does recommend ashwaganda, which will protect DNA and cell integrity and I assume he means of the healthy cells.

Breast cancer should not be something to fear but rather a call to go deeper in this journey called life. Dx 11/14/2013, ILC, 5cm, Grade 2, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Jul 9, 2017 01:26PM Hopeful82014 wrote:

I, too, was told a multi-vitamin was fine but not to load up on other anti-oxidants. Staying out of the sun was strongly advised. I would avoid anything that doesn't get your RO's stamp of approval, frankly, and I say that as someone who has a fair regard for CIM. Personally, I think using Ashwagandha would be a bad idea; it cannot discriminate between healthy cells and tumor cells - and the whole point of doing radiation is to damage the tumor cells, including their DNA. The amount of radiation, the timing, the number of cycles are all VERY carefully calculated to achieve as much control of remaining disease as possible. I wouldn't want to interfere with that at all.

The weeks of RT are a time to treat yourself gently, totally baby your skin, eat smartly and exercise intelligently (don't overdo it, try not to get too sweaty, do it indoors or in shade). Every person's experience is different and the fatigue, etc., may vary widely from one week to the next. It kept me off balance.

Once RT is finished, follow your RO's guidance on anti-oxidants and concentrate on your overall health. But don't interfere during RT with the work of the treatment. It's too much of a hassle to get less than full benefit from it! Good luck.

(PS - Piper's advice about using Aloe Vera on your skin is spot on. I used 100% AV and went through a LOT of it. I kept it in the 'fridge and applied the chilled liquid to my skin immediately after treatment, then covered it with a chilled cloth for about 20 minutes. I think that made a HUGE difference. I also applied it several more times throughout the day. I used EMU oil nightly and Boiron calendula lotion as well. My skin did extremely well - as my RO had assured me would be the case.)

Dx 2014, IDC, Left, 1cm, Stage IIA, Grade 2, ER+/PR-, HER2-
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Jul 9, 2017 01:53PM sbelizabeth wrote:

While the technicians are setting up for your treatments they will frequently use a Sharpie marker to draw on your skin, to help them get your positioning and the machine's targeting correct. Remove the ink gently! It will come off with baby oil or coconut oil and a very gentle wipe. Never rub with a lot of friction--radiated skin doesn't tolerate it well.

pinkribbonandwheels.wordpress.... Dx 10/20/2011, IDC, Left, 1cm, Stage IIIA, Grade 2, 6/28 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- Chemotherapy 12/15/2011 Adriamycin (doxorubicin), Cytoxan (cyclophosphamide), Taxotere (docetaxel) Surgery 4/18/2012 Mastectomy: Left Radiation Therapy 5/21/2012 Breast, Lymph nodes Hormonal Therapy 7/19/2012 Femara (letrozole) Surgery 4/15/2013 Reconstruction (left): DIEP flap; Reconstruction (right): DIEP flap
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Jul 20, 2017 07:00AM - edited Jul 20, 2017 07:05AM by inccmd

Thank you for the advice Hopeful8201 and ChiSandy. I start my radiation Aug 1. I currently take Multi, E, and B6 - Dr. knows, but I need to ask if I should stop the E & B6 for the treatment.

Dx 4/2017, ILC, Right, 1cm, Stage IA, Grade 2, 0/5 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-

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