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Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for Treatment of Side Effects of Late Radiotherapy

Radiation therapy (radiotherapy) has been used widely in the treatment of various chronic conditions, cancer being the main one. Huge success has been drawn from the numerous positive stories of those who have been healed from various forms of cancer. However, that hasn’t come without its fair share of downsides. Increased exposure to radiotherapy has numerous negative effects on healthy body tissues. Some of those who are most affected by the side effects of radiation include women being treated for breast cancer. Some of the most affected body tissues are those with a high turnover rate. These include mucous membranes in the digestive tract and blood vessels specifically capillaries. Mucous membrane tissues that cover the linings of the mouth and the stomach are greatly affected by radiation therapy. Some of the symptoms of late radiation therapy include pain in the chest cavity, breast pain, fibrosis, limb pain, and impairment of movement. Reduced secretion of saliva and lubrication as a result of radiation therapy increases the risk of contracting infections. Some of these side effects last for more than 10 years after one is done with radiotherapy. Others do not go away at all.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) has proven to be safe and effective in the treatment of the symptoms that result from increased exposure to radiation. The complications associated with radiation therapy impact the quality of life in various ways. Normal cells of various body tissues are injured or even damaged permanently (soft tissue radionecrosis) in the treatment of various types of cancer. Healthy tissues that border cancerous cells aren’t spared in the treatment of cancer. HBOT facilitates an increased reach of oxygenated blood to all tissues, including those affected by radiation. Tissues that would otherwise be dead are brought back to normalcy and they can resume their functions. HBOT also stimulates the growth of new tissue and blood vessels. Immunity for the tissues is also improved. HBOT is also used to curb pain and discomfort that is associated with exposure to radiation therapy. It also aids in reducing swelling and soreness in exposed body tissues. It also improves the healing process for wounds and scars that result from radiation therapy. The growth of new cells is stimulated through the growth of new capillaries which increase oxygen transportation to all corners of the body, including the damaged tissues.

Mucous membranes, which have relatively fast tissue regeneration are reinstated to normal functioning through the introduction of hyperbaric oxygen therapy. The restoration makes such processes as chewing food and swallowing easier. Enough secretion of saliva by the fully functional mucous membrane aids in improving the immunity of different parts of the mouth including the teeth, tongue, gums, throat, cheek padding, and throat. HBOT is preferred for being a less-invasive form of treatment. Taking such drugs as antibiotics takes a huge toll on the already vulnerable and beat body tissues. Other forms of treatment may not be as effective at this point. HBOT takes care of the frail state of the tissues and the body at large and helps one get back to normalcy.


Bennett, M. H., Feldmeier, J., Hampson, N., Smee, R., & Milross, C. (2012). Hyperbaric oxygen therapy for late radiation tissue injury. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 4(3), 49–54.

Bui, Q.-C., Lieber, M., Withers, H. R., Corson, K., van Rijnsoever, M., & Elsaleh, H. (2004). The efficacy of hyperbaric oxygen therapy in the treatment of radiation-induced late side effects. International Journal of Radiation Oncology*Biology*Physics, 60(3), 871–878.

Feldmeier DO, J. J. (2008). Hyperbaric oxygen therapy for delayed radiation injuries. Physiology and Medicine of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, 13(10), 231–256.



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