Healthy Q & A: Radiation Treatment


My Dad who is 86 will be starting radiation treatment for cancer on one of his vocal cords.  My question is should he be taking any supplements or be applying any sort of lotions or creams on his neck?  He is in good health gets around great, and we would like to keep him that way.


There are a number of supplements which have been found to be beneficial in conjunction with radiation.  A good probiotic supplement can help to prevent the diarrhea that can sometimes be a side effect of radiation therapy.  Ginger can also help with the nausea that frequently accompanies radiation.


Another suggestion would be to supplement with curcumin, the beneficial extract from turmeric.  In animal studies, curcumin helped to prevent the skin damage caused by radiation and the curcumin supplements were associated with fewer burns and blisters.  You can read more about the study here.  Topical aloe vera gel or calendula cream can also be helpful in soothing skin irritated by radiation.


DHA, a beneficial component of omega 3 fatty acids, may also be helpful.  There was a recent groundbreaking study on breast cancer which found that DHA was able to sensitize tumors to respond better to treatment.  In the animal study, tumor size decreased by 60% at 12 days after irradiation in the group that was supplemented with DHA compared to 31% in the control group.  The research on DHA and cancer is still very preliminary, but very exciting.  You can read the study’s abstract here.


Other ideas would be panax ginseng, which could help to counteract the fatigue he may experience.  Eating a diet full of high antioxidant fruits and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage) is a good idea as well.


Be sure to mention any alternative therapies you're considering with his physician.  I hope that helps!