The Dangers Of Radiation In Treating Breast Cancer

Despite all of our great advances in technology, squashing cancer is a far and distant dream. Actually, cancer remains a nightmare. In 2016, it was projected that there would be 1.7 million new cancer diagnoses and over 595,000 deaths. For women, one of the greatest threats is breast cancer, which claims the lives of over 200,000 women every year.

The mainstream problem of cancer is far from being solved. However, that’s due in part to mainstream “solutions” being the primary choice which often only contribute to the cancer problem. A good example of this is radiation therapy.

How radiation works

We’ve all caught onto the gist of how radiation “helps” cancer by killing cancer cells. There’s more to it though. Mosey on over to the American Cancer Society’s page on radiation therapy, and you’ll read this:

Radiation therapy kills cancer cells that are dividing, but it also affects dividing cells of normal tissues. The damage to normal cells causes unwanted side effects. Radiation therapy is always a balance between destroying the cancer cells and minimizing damage to the normal cells.

As we can see, radiation therapy isn’t just a toxic treatment to cancer cells. It’s a dangerous poison to the cells of the entire body, and it can damage parts of the body outside of the area directly treated with radiation. This damage takes many different forms.

Damage done by radiation

Nerve and tissue damage

In discussing the uses of radiation therapy, the American Cancer Society states, “On the one hand, it can contribute to cancer cure, on the other it can influence acute and late radiation side effects, which in many ways resemble acute and chronic inflammatory disease states.”

For women with breast cancer, radiation-induced inflammation causes various problems. Lymphoedema — swelling of the arm — is one example, and it’s a condition that calls for yet more medical treatment. There may also be significant and painful changes in the movement and feeling of the treated chest, shoulder, and arm of the treated area. Movement and feeling in this area can be compromised and painful. Nerve damage caused by radiation can leave a “pins and needles” sensation in the treated area, provoking the use of drugs for pain. Musculoskeletal pain is a very common and unwelcome complaint among radiation-treated women.

Weakened immunity

Radiation — like it’s sister treatment chemotherapy — weakens and kills off vital immune system cells like white blood cells. It can also have a major impact on wounds and the rate and effectiveness at which they heal. In fact, radiation’s impact on immunity and risks for infection are so significant, radiation isn’t even considered as a treatment option for women with autoimmune diseases.

Infertility

Localizing radiation therapy helps reduce the damage caused to other parts of the body, but it doesn’t stop it from happening. This is especially problematic for girls and women receiving radiation who may wish to become pregnant in the future. Females are born with all of their eggs intact, without the chance to produce on-demand as males can. The toxic effects of radiation pose great danger to the eggs within a female’s uterus. Treatment areas including the lower part of the neck put woman’s fertility risks even higher because of potential damage to the hypothalamus and pituitary glands that regulate menstruation. Because of the risks of infertility, oncologists are promoting egg freezing prior to a woman’s cancer treatment.  

Recurring cancer

Radiation therapy is a risk factor for breast cancer, and other cancers. Conveniently, there isn’t a cancer organization or radiation center out there that will cite or share the risk of recurring cancer among women treated with radiation. However, it is known that women who receive a mastectomy to treat their breast cancer are still at risk of cancer recurrence. A report from Cancer Network shows that women between ages twenty and forty had a breast cancer recurrence rate between 41 and 67 percent. And that’s for cancer in the removed breast. It’s safe to assume that women treated with poison face greater odds.   

New cancer

American Cancer Society writes that breast cancer survivors (aka women treated for breast cancer) have a much higher risk of developing a second cancer in the form of ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, thyroid cancer, colon cancer, stomach cancer, salivary gland cancer, esophagus cancer, skin melanoma, soft tissue sarcoma, acute myeloid leukemia, and/or a second breast cancer.

As the Susan G. Komen Foundation points out, the younger the age and the higher the dose of radiation, the greater the risk of developing cancer. It’s been estimated that women who receive radiation treatment run a 1-in-1000 risk of developing cancer in the skin, muscle, bone, or organs in the treated area.     

Bone damage

Radiation also puts women at risk of rib fracture years down the road. Should the radiation treatment cause severe breakdown of tissues or immense pain, women may find themselves facing another medical procedure, or swallowing a daily dose of pain relieving drugs.

Delayed “side effects”

The consequences of radiation therapy can be seen in quick-growing tissues very rapidly. However, slow-growing tissues of the brain, breast, bone, and nerves take longer to express damage from radiation. These cells can continue to die off weeks or months after the last radiation treatment. Radiation also provokes a spike in the production of destructive inflammatories like cytokines, chemokines, ROS, and growth factors. This means that women who receive radiation treatment will continue to experience the physical consequences of inflammation and tissue damage long after treatment has ended. The worst of radiation may come after the treatment itself is said and done. Worse yet, the the high costs and fine print of medical insurance can lead to a painful financial burden as well as a physical one.    

What’s a woman to do?

So, what can you do if you’re facing a cancer diagnosis and you want to treat your body with the safest and healthiest options possible? The mainstream doctor or oncologist won’t have many options for you, but they are out there.

To start, read our post on the problems with mammograms. Contrary to Susan K. Komen’s advertising, mammograms are not the harmless or accurate diagnostic tool that they’re touted to be. There are options that can be far more effective in detecting and determining cancerous growths (and without the cancer-causing radiation).

If you’d like to get to know healthy options backed by cancer survivors, science, and rebellious expert doctors, read our post on eight powerful and natural cancer therapies. If you’re presently being treated with chemo or radiation or plan to be, then read Cancer Tutor’s post on natural cancer treatments which can safely be used in conjunction to support health and cancer eradication.

There are cancer treatment alternatives that are researched and practiced. Find the ones that resonate with you, and then share your findings with a trusted healthcare provider. You can do this. And we’re here to help, at any stage of your journey. 

Resources for this article include:

Cancer Treatment & Survivorship: Facts & Figures 2014-2015 — American Cancer Society
Breast Cancer: Breast And Arm Changes — MacMillan Cancer Support  
Radiation Therapy Basics — American Cancer Society
Radiation Exposure
— Susan G. Komen
Immune Effects Of Targeted Radiation Therapy For Cancer
— Discovery Medicine
Side Effects From Breast Cancer Treatment — John Hopkins Medicine
Why Isn’t There A Cure For Cancer?
— Health Grad
Egg & Embryo Freezing (Oocyte Cryopreservation)
— SM Fertility
Local Recurrence After Mastectomy Or Breast-Conserving Surgery And Radiation —  Cancer Network
Second Cancers After Breast Cancer — American Cancer Society
How Much Does Health Insurance Cost? — TFC
Breast Cancer: Everything You Need To Know About The Causes, Treatments, And Prevention — Cancer Tutor
Dear Joan Lunden: Why I Say “No” To Chemo For Triple Negative Breast Cancer And “Yes” To Natural Healing — The Truth About Cancer
Natural Cancer Treatments For Those Using Chemotherapy And/Or Radiation — Cancer Tutor