Cancer radiation is a toxic treatment method with many side effects. Radiation can lead to heart failure years after the treatment.
In this post, you'll learn everything you need to know about cancer radiation therapy. Get the real facts about radiation and its adverse side effects before risking your life. Discover the questions you have to ask your radiation oncologist before doing a treatment.
This information can save your life.
What is Radiation Therapy?
Cancer radiation therapy uses radiation beams to kill cancer cells. It destroys cancer cells by using high-energy particles such as x-rays or gamma rays. Or electron beams and protons.
You can use radiation by itself or with chemotherapy or surgery. The primary purpose of cancer radiation is to shrink tumors before or after surgery. Or to ease symptoms.
There are two common radiation therapies, external beam radiation therapy or internal radiation therapy(Brachytherapy). Let us explore what these treatment methods do.
External Beam Radiation Therapy
External beam radiation projects radiation from a machine outside of your body. In external beam radiation, they make a CT-scan to get a detailed picture of the tumor and its borders.
The doctors will use these pictures to create a 3D-picture of the tumor and vital tissues nearby.
By taking the pictures, the doctor can know the shape, type, and size of the tumor. They can then adjust and determine how the beam should hit the tumor and avoid healthy tissues.
During the procedure, a medical linear accelerator will deliver an x-ray beam to the tumor. A computer inside the accelerator will adjust the beam with a device called a collimator. The collimator will change the intensity, direction, and shape of the radiation beam.
External beam therapy treats the following diseases as well as many others:
Diseases Treated By External Beam Therapy
- Breast Cancer
- Head And Neck Cancer
- Esophageal Cancer
- Brain Tumor
- Colorectal (Bowel) Cancer
- Lung Cancer
- Prostate Cancer
Okay so now you know what External Beam Radiation Therapy is. But what about internal radiation? Well, I talk about it next.
Internal radiation (Brachytherapy)
Internal radiation (Brachytherapy) is a procedure that involves placing radioactive material inside your body.
It allows doctors to deliver higher doses of radiation to specific areas of the body. Compared with the conventional form of radiation therapy.
In Brachytherapy, they place radioactive seeds or sources in or near the tumor itself.
The term "brachy" is Greek for short distance.
A machine pushes radioactive pellets into thin catheters inside the tumors. One by one under computer control.
The pellets have a protective capsule or wire. These wires prevent radioisotopes from moving or dissolve in body fluids. Radiation is then able to treat and kill surrounding tissues.
A computer controls how long the pellet stays in each catheter.
The catheters get discarded after a series of treatments.
A course of brachytherapy finishes in less time than other radiotherapy techniques.
Cancers That Brachtherapy Treat
- Head and Neck
What you learned so far is good to know. But what you are about to learn next about the side effects of radiation is far more important.
The Dangerous Side Effects Of Radiotherapy
Radiation Increases the Risk Of Stroke
A study examined the stroke risk during radiation.
Radiation therapy to the head can increase the possibility of stroke. Head and neck cancer patients receiving radiation have a five times greater stroke rate.
The average time between radiation treatment and stroke was 10.9 years. But the increased risk of stroke persisted for 15 years after radiation therapy.
When radiation patients later die, the official cause of death is the stroke. Even though the radiation therapy often caused it.
Cancer cure statistics are thus misleading. The hospital can say that radiation therapy cures cancer patients. But, long-term radiation side effects cause many deaths.
How Radiation Causes Heart Failure
Cancer radiation can still affect other organs, especially the heart.
Dr. Barbara Stamis is a researcher at the Netherlands Cancer Institute. She gave a talk at the European Society for Radiotherapy and Oncology's meeting. During this meeting, she addressed how radiation can affect the heart in a severe way.
She had examined non-cancer deaths in early stage lung cancer patients. According to her, a few years of radiation increased the risk of heart problems in these patients.
A study published in the ESTRO 35 program, analyzed data on 565 early lung cancer patients. They selected patients treated with radiation(SBRT) between 2006 and 2013.
After a follow-up time of 28 months, 58 percent of the patients were alive. All radiation exposure to the heart increased the risk of non-cancer death.
If you think that is scary, you will not like what you hear next. I’m going tell you two stories that will make you an even greater skeptic of radiation therapy.
How a Radiation Overdose Killed Scott Jerome-Parks
Today’s technology allows radiation doses at almost any level. Tragic mistakes expose patients to many times their expected radiation dosages. When that occurs, it may be the radiation overdose and not cancer that causes death.
In one case, Scott Jerome-Parks a computer and systems analyst got a radiation overdose. The hospital failed to detect a computer error.
This mistake blasted Jerome-Parks brain stem for three days with errant beams.
He felt nauseated and were in severe pain and had ulcers in his mouth and throat. His teeth were falling out, and he had to receive food through a feeding tube. Jerome-Parks died of his injuries.
Cancer Radiation Burned a Hole In Alexandra Jn-Charles
Alexandra Jn-Charles was a 32-year-old breast cancer that had a similar experience as Jerome. She absorbed three times more radiation than prescribed.
A linear accelerator was a missing filter. The machine burned a hole in her chest, leaving a wound so painful that she considered suicide.
Ms. Jn-Charles and Mr. Jerome-Parks died a month apart.
Sad right? To show you how bad radiation is let me share Suzanne Somers experience.
Suzanne Somers About Her Cancer Radiation: ”I was in constant pain.”
Suzanne Somers is a famous actress. Known for her television roles as Chrissy Snow on Three's Company and as Carol Lambert on Step by Step. Somers got diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001.
She had a lumpectomy, and radiation, but declined to undergo chemotherapy.
In an interview with Bill Faloon Suzanne said:
There should be a book written on the realities of radiation and all the things that are never mentioned beforehand. With radiation, the breast gradually gets flatter and flatter until it looks as though there has been a complete mastectomy.
In addition, the asymmetry causes severe pain because in order to look "even" in clothing one side of the bra has to be pulled up so high that it injures the breast and removing the bra becomes excruciating.
When Bill Faloon asked her about her experience with radiation therapy, she said:
I was in constant pain. As I said, in order to wear a bra, the full damaged breast needed to be worn high enough to create evenness. This injured the breast, making bra removal an excruciating experience.
Also, as someone who enjoys sex (due to my perfect hormonal balance), having painful breasts was not conducive to that activity. In time, I was always in pain. Something had to be done.
So what side effects can you experience after a treatment?
Common Side Effects of Cancer Radiation
- Sore and pink skin
- Instestinal discomfort
- Hair loss
- Dry eyes
- Cognitive decline
- Difficulty swallowing
- Breast or nipple soreness
- Radiation pneumonits
- Rectal bleeding
- Bladder Irritation
- Sores in mouth, throat and stomach
- Dry mouth
- Heart Disease
- Effects reproduction
- Shortness of breath
- Shoulder stiffness
- Radiation fibrosis
Phew, that was much information to take in. So let me summarize what you learned today and then tell you which steps you should take next.
Cancer radiation therapy uses radiation beams to kill cancer cells.
It destroys cancer cells by using high-energy particles such as x-rays or gamma rays. Or electron beams and protons.
Radiation can lead to heart failure years after the treatment.
I shared three stories about the devastating effects of radiation.
By reading this post, I hope that you now know the dangers of radiation therapy and why you shouldn't pursue it. Do these five things before you decide on doing radiation.
5 Things To Do Before Deciding on Cancer Radiation
1. Download the Cancer Radiation questionnaire here
2. Choose which questions to ask
3. Ask your questions to your oncologist and write his/her answers or record it
4. Read through your oncologist's answers
5. Study the side effects of using radiation
So right now download the free questionnaire here and read through the questions.
In this document, I provide you with questions you should ask your radiation oncologist. Why? Because when you ask these questions you will discover some dirty secrets.
So pick the issues you want to ask about prepare for the next check up.
Print the document so that you can have the questions in front of you or use your Ipad
Interrogate your radiation oncologist. Notice how he responds and if he avoids the issues, change his answers or become angry at you.
After evaluating the responses, do you feel confident that he can cure your cancer?
If you have any questions or comments please leave them below.
Resources & Citations:
(12. Boivin JF, Hutchison GB, Lubin JH, Mauch P. Coronary artery disease mortality in patients treated for Hodgkin's disease. Cancer. 1992 Mar 1;69(5):1241-7.)