Along with surgery and chemotherapy, radiation therapy (radiotherapy) is one of the most important methods of cancer treatment. At least 50 percent of all cancer patients will receive radiotherapy at some stage during the course of their illness. It is currently used to treat localized solid tumors, such as cancers of the skin, brain, breast, or cervix, and can also be used to treat leukemia and lymphoma (Tobias JS 1992).
Most types of radiation do not attack cancer cells specifically, and therefore cause injury to normal tissues surrounding the tumor. The adverse effects are a major factor limiting the success of radiation treatment. However, proton therapy and CyberKnife® therapy are technologically advanced forms of radiotherapy that cause little damage to normal tissue because they focus intensely on the tumor.
The effectiveness of radiation therapy can be enhanced by both radiosensitizers, such as genistein, curcumin, green tea, and hyperthermia, and radioprotectors, such as ginseng, glutathione, whey protein, and shark liver oil. Overall, the use of specific nutritional supplements, drugs, and other strategies may prevent and help to alleviate and treat the side effects caused by radiation, and thereby improve the effectiveness of radiotherapy.