Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA)-approved treatment for the late effects of radiation tissue injuries such as radiation cystitis and proctitis, both adverse effects of radiation therapy for pelvic-region tumors.
Those undergoing HBOT breathe 100% oxygen in a pressurized environment, which can regenerate blood vessels, decrease inflammation, and re-populate the radiated area with healthy cells. HBOT has been shown to have a nearly 80% improvement rate for patients suffering from the delayed effects of radiation tissue damage, caused by radiation therapy commonly used to treat various cancers.
It’s important to understand what radiation cystitis and proctitis are, and the symptoms to look out for. Once you’ve noticed the signs, you can speak with a medical professional to decide if hyperbaric oxygen therapy is the right solution for you. Studies and research indicate HBOT has significant effects on the symptoms of these two injuries that may result from receiving radiation therapy.
Radiation cystitis is a complication from radiation therapy performed in response to bladder cancer or tumors in organs surrounding the bladder, such as the colon, rectum, ovaries, uterus, and prostate. A tumor in these neighboring organs can lead to unintentional radiation exposure for healthy bladder tissue, irritating the lining of the bladder and urethra.
Medical media company MJH Life Sciences reported 5 to 15 percent of patients experience late radiation cystitis after radiotherapy for prostate, rectal, or gynecologic cancers.
Symptoms of cystitis include the need to urinate often due to damage of the sphincter and urethra, burning during urination, difficulty urinating due to inflammation and swelling of the urethra, and blood in the urine due to weakened bladder and urethra linings.
In one study titled “Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for Hemorrhagic Radiation Cystitis,” researchers gave 32 patients who experienced blood in their urine (hematuria) due to radiation cystitis 30 daily, 90-minute sessions of HBOT at 2 atmosphere (ATM). The trial concluded HBOT “controlled bleeding in 84% of the patients. A durable freedom from significant hematuria was achieved in 96% of the patients.”
Another controlled trial published in 2019 spanned across five Nordic university hospitals. Seventy-nine patients with radiation cystitis were randomly assigned to either hyperbaric oxygen therapy or standard care. The study found that “hyperbaric oxygen therapy relieves symptoms of late radiation cystitis. We conclude that hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a safe and well tolerated treatment.”
The study found that “hyperbaric oxygen therapy relieves symptoms of late radiation cystitis. We conclude that hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a safe and well tolerated treatment.”
Radiation proctitis is the inflammation of the rectum lining due to exposure to radiation therapy, and may occur in 5 to 20 percent of patients three to six months after receiving treatment for colon, prostate, cervix, or ovarian cancer. Similar to radiation cystitis, proctitis can result from inadvertent radiation exposure to a healthy rectum.
Symptoms include a constant feeling of needing to have a bowel movement, discharge coming from the rectum, rectal bleeding, pain during bowel movements, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps.
A randomized and controlled study published in 2008 evaluated the use of HBOT on 120 patients with proctitis. The group who received HBOT exhibited an improved score on the quality of life bowel bother subscale; tissue-subjective, objective, management, analytic (SOMA-LENT); and the standard clinical assessment. The report concluded: “Hyperbaric oxygen therapy significantly improved the healing responses in patients with refractory radiation proctitis, generating an absolute risk reduction of 32% (number needed to treat of 3) between the groups after the initial allocation.”
A more recent study titled “Hyperbaric Oxygen in the Treatment of Radiation Proctitis and Cerebral Necrosis” found all 24 sampled patients experienced a decrease and normalization of stool frequency and pelvic pain after completion.
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