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Breast Cancer Prevention

How Photobiomodulation Therapy Supports Breast Cancer Patients

According to Breastcancer.org, about 1 in 8 women in the United States (about 13%) will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer during their lifetime.

Generally, treatments for breast cancer are invasive, and they can have numerous side effects. The most common include radiodermatitis, sleep quality issues, and lymphedema (swelling in the fatty tissues).

One complementary therapy that may mitigate cancer side effects is red light therapy, or photobiomodulation. What does the research say about red light therapy as a supportive treatment?

Ultimately, as a relatively new medical therapy, clinical evidence in support of RLT in breast cancer care is limited. In fact, several studies have shown photobiomodulation to be a contraindication. This means that when light therapy is applied directly to cancer cells it may, in fact, stimulate the growth of cancer cells. This is why red light therapy should be avoided by anyone with a history of skin cancer.

However, the aim of this article is to explore the question: Can you use red light therapy for breast cancer treatment side effects? In this area, clinical trials have found more promising results. Researchers have found that RLT may be useful for lymphedema, improving sleep, and treating radiodermatitis, for example.

Yet, although some results have shown promise, breast cancer patients should always first consult with an oncologist or physician prior to using red light therapy.

This guide explores the research and provides guidelines for using red light therapy alongside traditional cancer treatments.

Red Light Therapy: Exploring Uses in Cancer Treatment

Red light therapy, which is a form of photobiomodulation, exposes the body to specific wavelengths of red and near infrared light. This light energy stimulates cell mitochondria and increases the production of ATP, a cellular energy source.

Some research suggests that this increase in energy production may help cellular processes and facilitate faster wound healing and muscle recovery.

In addition, red light therapy is widely used for skin rejuvenation and may help to improve collagen production and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

However, when it comes to using red light therapy for cancer treatment, the research is mixed.

Many of the studies exploring RLT’s impact on cancer cell growth have been in vitro studies. Many of these studies show that red light exposure increases cancer cell growth in vitro.

However, there are exceptions. One study did find, for example, that 660 nm wavelengths had an anti-proliferation effect on breast cancer cells.

Another 2009 study compared the effect of red light therapy on melanoma tumor growth. In the study, a small dose of red light showed a small (but not statistically significant) reduction in tumor size, while the high-dose treatment “significantly increased” tumor growth.

Other small studies have found positive effects, with red light increasing survivor rates.

But results showing clinical efficacy are limited. Therefore, if you’re considering using red light therapy as part of a breast cancer treatment plan, consult with your physician.

Can Red Light Therapy Help with Breast Cancer Treatment Side Effects?

As a treatment alternative, red light therapy isn’t recommended. However, as a therapy for the side effects of cancer treatment, RLT may offer more utility. In fact, over the last two decades, the use of photobiomodulation and red light therapy in supportive care of cancer patients has grown.

Several studies have shown that red light therapy has been shown to have positive effects on cancer treatment side effects like oral mucositis (OM), lymphedema, neuropathy, and radiodermatitis.

At present, in breast cancer treatment, red light therapy is typically used as a complementary alternative for managing side effect symptoms.

Is it effective? For several cancer treatment side effects, red light therapy has shown promise:

1. Treating Cancer Complications

A large review of research explored PBM treatment for a wide range of complications of cancer care, with the authors ultimately suggesting PBM is helpful for treating complications like:

  • Dysgeusia
  • Trismus
  • Mucosal and bone necrosis,
  • Hand-foot syndrome
  • Alopecia
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Late fibrosis among cancer survivors

2. Reducing Sleep Disturbances, Fatigue

Fatigue and sleep disturbances are common side effects of cancer treatment, and light therapy may help to improve sleep quality and fatigue among cancer survivors.

A small study of women who had completed treatment for early-stage breast cancer found that a two-week light therapy regimen resulted in significant improvements in sleep quality. Ultimately, the authors concluded that the type of light that’s used, as well as timing the therapy based on the individual’s natural sleep-wake cycle, is important for efficacy.

3. Treating Swelling from Lymphedema

Lymphedema refers to a build-up of protein-rich fluid in the body’s soft tissues. This condition can significantly impact the physical and psychological health of breast cancer survivors.

A systematic review of research explored clinical trials looking at red light therapy’s effectiveness for treating breast-cancer related lymphedema (BCRL).

Ultimately, the authors found evidence from three high-quality trials that PBM was more effective than a placebo treatment for reducing swelling, while two other trials found moderate or limited evidence. The authors concluded that PBM may be an effective treatment for BCRL; however, more research is needed.

4. Reducing Severity of Radiodermatitis

Radiodermatitis, or radiation burn, is a painful skin condition that’s a common side effect of cancer radiation therapy. Several studies have explored using PBM therapy to treat radiodermatitis.

A large review of research looked at 3 clinical trials that included about 300 patients in total. In these trials, 142 actually received light therapy. The authors concluded that PBM can reduce the severity of radiodermitatis, while noting more research was needed.

5. Stimulating the Immune System

There is some evidence that PBM therapy activates the immune system and can improve the immune response during cancer treatment. However, the degree and type of immune response is typically influenced by treatment factors, including site and light intensity.

Safety Guidelines: Using Red Light Therapy for Breast Cancer Treatment

If you’re considering using red light therapy for breast cancer treatment side effects, here are some safety precautions to follow:

  • Consult a Doctor: Talk with your doctor before starting any new treatment, especially light therapy. Your doctor can help you determine if this is right for the symptoms you’re experiencing and will monitor for any potential side effects.
  • Device Efficacy: Use a quality red light therapy device. You should tailor the dosage, and therefore, will need to know the device’s accurate irradiance and wavelengths output. You can see how in our guide to choosing a red light therapy device.
  • Follow Instructions: Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully for use. Generally, a specific dosage may not be outlined. You may need to contact a red light therapy expert for precise dosage guidelines. Generally, how often you should use RLT depends on your needs; however, when starting, never exceed more than 15-20 minutes per day.
  • Do Not Use: If you are breastfeeding, pregnant or have a history of skin cancer, do not use red light therapy devices. Red light therapy may worsen skin cancers.

If your symptoms worsen or you experience side effects, stop red light therapy immediately and contact your physician.

About Our Breast Care Red Light Devices

Hue Light USA offers several red light therapy devices that deliver low-level laser light, including a whole-body photobiomodulation chamber, a PBM red light pad, and a breast red light therapy pad, the Breast PBM Irradiator.

The Breast PBM Irradiator is one of the only premium red light devices for breast-related issues. The device is primarily used to:

  • Soothe the lymph nodes (underarm)
  • Increase circulation to the breast and lymph nodes
  • Temporary soothe muscle pain and increase tissue temperature
  • Deliver red light therapy directly to the breasts

Have questions about the Breast PBM Irradiator? Contact the Hue Light USA team today to learn more.

FAQs

Can red light therapy treat breast cancer?

There is currently no conclusive evidence that red light therapy alone can treat breast cancer. However, some early research suggests red light, particularly at a wavelength of 660nm, may have anti-proliferative effects on breast cancer cells in lab settings. More research is needed to determine its effectiveness and safety in humans.

Is red light therapy safe for people with breast cancer?

While generally considered safe, more research is needed to determine the safety of red light therapy for people with breast cancer. It's important to consult with a doctor before using red light therapy, especially if you are undergoing cancer treatment.

Can red light therapy help with side effects of breast cancer treatment?

Some studies suggest red light therapy may help with fatigue and improve sleep quality in breast cancer survivors. However, more research is required to confirm these findings.

Where can I find more information about red light therapy and breast cancer?

Talk to your doctor about the potential benefits and risks of red light therapy. You can also find reliable information from reputable organizations like the American Cancer Society or the National Cancer Institute

What are some alternatives to red light therapy for managing side effects of breast cancer treatment?

Several evidence-based strategies can help manage fatigue and sleep disturbances in cancer survivors. These include exercise, relaxation techniques, and cognitive behavioral therapy. Discuss these options with your doctor to find the best approach for you.

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as a direct reference to any products offered by Hue Light USA or any specific brand. We do not claim that our products can achieve the effects or benefits discussed in this content. This information should not be interpreted as medical advice or as an endorsement of any specific product or treatment. We encourage readers to conduct their own research and consult with a qualified healthcare professional before making any decisions regarding their health or wellness regimen.

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