How Cancer Patients Can Benefit From Hyperbarics: HBOT For Radiation Injury

  • Dermatology
  • dermatology - Skin Care
  • April 21, 2023

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy can help heal wounds and other physical injuries. Patients undergoing radiation therapy can benefit from HBOT.

Fighting Cancer’s Effects With Hyperbarics

Adiagnosis of cancer is devastating news at any stage of the disease. After diagnosis, the next steps usually involve treatment to suppress or eliminate cancer. Cancer treatment often requires radiation along with a combination of other strategies like surgery or chemotherapy. Sometimes, there’s the added danger of radiation injury. Large doses of prolonged radiation to the skin can cause chronic wounds, scarring, internal damage, or a damaged blood supply. Treatment of radiation injuries is lengthy and may not be successful. With hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), a type of oxygen therapy, there is hope.

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Treating a radiation injury

Depending on the extent of damage suffered by the patient, the treatment for radiation injuries can vary. Radiation can help eliminate cancer cells, but in some cases, the treatment can damage the skin and bone. Surgery in the form of skin grafts or debridement of wounds can help with the injury. However, internal damage to the digestive system and other organs can be even more challenging to treat and needs continuous care. As part of wound management and healing, pure oxygen in the form of HBOT is an option.

What is HBOT?

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy involves providing the body with short bursts of pure oxygen for therapeutic purposes. On average, the human body only uses 20% pure oxygen, which is required for all tissue and organs to function. At 100% pure oxygen, scientists discovered that the body’s regenerative abilities increased significantly. With HBOT, the patient is placed in a chamber or room that distributes 100% oxygen at a specific atmospheric pressure. The concentration of pure oxygen in the bloodstream creates more stem cells, speeds up tissue healing, and improves recovery. While HBOT primarily treats divers with decompression illness, the therapy is also approved for burns, crush injuries, certain infections, and radiation injuries.

How does oxygen help?

Studies show that about 5% of patients who need radiation therapy for cancer will experience radiation injuries. Radiation injuries can happen immediately or several months after treatment. In most cases, the tissue and blood vessels die or may form sinus tracts, which are also dangerous. With multiple HBOT sessions, in some cases 20 or more, there will be an improvement in the injury. The therapy reduces infections, speeds up healing, and provides better outcomes for patients with a radiation injury. To date, HBOT is not approved to treat cancer. However, there is growing evidence that HBOT may slow the aggressiveness of tumors and enhance current therapies. A recent study showed that HBOT improved lung cancer tumors, but more research is needed.

Trust in hyperbarics

Radiation can destroy cancer cells. However, the procedure also targets healthy cells and tissue. As a result, some patients are at risk of developing a radiation injury. Oxygen therapy can help manage the damage by enhancing the body’s healing ability. Investing time and effort into HBOT can improve the overall cancer treatment experience.

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