When I first saw Barbara’s story, I was amazed. I had never heard of a person in the final stages of advanced Alzheimer’s disease improve their symptoms thanks to a mainstream medical treatment. And as you’ll see, Barbara’s improvements were significant.
This surprising story began when Barbara was 81 years old. She had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s ten years earlier. The disease had progressed to the point where Barbara required full time, round-the-clock care. In early April 2015, she was admitted into hospice care to live out her final days.
Within six weeks, Barbara had become completely unresponsive. She refused her medications and was unable to move on her own. And she could no longer communicate.
But then, thanks to a novel application of a well-known treatment, Barbara’s symptoms started to improve. . .
Kicked Out of Hospice
In fact, the improvement was so dramatic, Barbara was released in November 2015, about seven months after being admitted to hospice. She was no longer eligible for hospice care.
How can this be?
As often happens with a terminally ill patient, it started with a loving caregiver. Barbara’s husband Eugene was crushed with the thought of losing her. So he buried himself in research to see what he could learn. And he uncovered some surprising things about low-dose radiation… it has a remarkable ability to heal.
It turns out that in the early 1900s, doctors used low-dose radiation to treat all kinds of things. (It wasn’t known at the time that radiation exposure could cause cancer and bone marrow damage.) They used it to heal wounds and infections such as gas gangrene, boils, sinus and inner ear infections. It was even used to treat arthritis.
Now we know radiation can be dangerous.
And yet radiation is a common treatment and occasionally a complete cure for many types of cancer. I don’t go in for it myself – there are safe and effective alternative treatments that do no harm. But in mainstream medicine, it’s one of the three main modalities along with surgery and chemotherapy.
And there is a fact about radiation that’s quite surprising. Research shows that in low doses, radiation increases your body’s natural ability to protect itself from disease.
Low-dose radiation stimulates antioxidants in your cells as well as your body’s DNA repair enzymes. It boosts your immune system response.1
Useful in Treating Neurodegenerative Disease?
What caught Eugene’s eye was a study that suggested low dose radiation could help with neurodegenerative diseases.2 He wanted to see if Barbara’s doctor would consider exploring this approach to treat Barbara.
They met several times to discuss the possibility. And the doctor finally determined the best way to give Barbara low-dose radiation would be with CT scans.
CT scans are often used to determine if a patient has Alzheimer’s disease, so prescribing one for Barbara wasn’t considered unusual. But the research showed she would need a series of them to experience any benefit.
In July 2015, three months after she was admitted into the hospice, Barbara’s doctor prescribed a standard CT scan. But the image was blurry. So they had to give her another scan the same day.
Two days later, Barbara’s caregiver, who was unaware that Barbara had received CT scans, noticed a significant improvement in her behavior. The change was so remarkable, the caregiver went out of her way to talk about it.
“She is doing so well that it is amazing. I have never seen someone improve this much. She wanted to get up and walk. She was talking some, with more sense, and she was feeding herself again.”3
By any standard, those would be amazing changes in someone with late-stage dementia.
Then, two weeks later, Barbara had another scan. Again, Barbara’s caregivers and even visitors noticed more improvement. She was communicating more… and becoming more talkative!
Barbara was given another scan two weeks after. And in a short time, she started short sentences of three to five words. She also became more active in her exercise group.
Barbara continued to show improvement after the first three treatments, which was really four scans in total. But she did have a setback with the fifth scan six weeks later. She lost about 80% of the progress she had made. It was very discouraging, to say the least.
But remarkably, within a few weeks the improvements she had made earlier returned. And at that point she was discharged from hospice care.
The doctors made some important conclusions when they looked closely at Barbara’s CT scans.
The Dose Is Critical
After the first four scans, Barbara’s body made adjustments to the radiation that reversed some of the brain damage caused by the disease. But the fifth scan pushed the cumulative amount of radiation in Barbara’s body over the optimal range. And that’s what caused the temporary setback.
To compensate, Eugene and Barbara’s doctors have been giving her “booster” scans when they notice her condition declining. Barbara celebrated her 83rd birthday in October, 2017.
This certainly is an impressive study. My view? More research is needed, and in any case, I would turn to such a drastic treatment only as a last resort and in a late-stage patient. Cancer isn’t a consideration in a case where a patient is close to death from Alzheimer’s anyway.
Now there are low-dose radiation clinical trials in the works to see if others suffering from Alzheimer’s will experience similar results to Barbara. It’s still early days, but someday low-dose radiation may become a common treatment for Alzheimer’s, and perhaps other neurodegenerative diseases, too.