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Treatment of Radiation Necrosis

November 15, 2018

For those suffering from cancer, radiation therapy can be a lifesaver. While it has been very effective for millions of people, it can be an uncomfortable treatment that presents new health issues that need to be addressed to live a comfortable life.


Hyperbaric oxygen treatment, or HBOT, allows patients to fight the damaging effects of radiation treatment. In this month’s post, we’ll take a close look at…


  • Radiation therapy and its side effects
  • What exactly radiation necrosis is
  • What HBOT is and how it can help treat radiation necrosis



What is radiation therapy?

Radiation therapy uses high doses of radiation such as high-energy x-ray or electron, photon, or proton beams to kill cancerous cells and ultimately eliminate cancer from the body.


Radiation therapy destroys the DNA of the cancerous cells. When this happens, cancer cells stop dividing and growing, thus helping stop the growth of the cells and cancer.


Unfortunately, radiation therapy does not immediately kill these cells, nor is it always successful. Additionally, multiple treatments over multiple sessions are likely required. Repeated radiation treatments can eventually kill healthy cells as well, leading to complications.



Common types of radiation therapy

The type of radiation you receive depends on a number of factors, including:

  • The type of cancer
  • Location and size of cancerous tumor(s)
  • How close the cancerous tumor is to sensitive healthy tissue in your body
  • Your medical history and state of general health

Depending on these factors, you may be treated with with external beam radiation therapy or internal radiation therapy.

  • External beam radiation is a local treatment that beams radiation to a specific, targeted area outside of your body with a device known as a “linear accelerator.” Since treatment can be placed with pinpoint precision, radiation will administered where it is needed.
  • Internal radiation therapy is a radiation treatment where radiation is placed inside your body, either in solid or liquid form.


Further reading on radiation necrosis & HBOT

More and more research is being done into HBOT and radiation necrosis. Recent studies include…



Complications associated with radiation therapy

Many patients experience complications as a result of undergoing radiation therapy. These complications include:

  • Skin problems such as itching, burning, soreness, and peeling (similar to a sunburn)
  • Fatigue
  • Hair loss
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Swelling
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Loss of ability to taste
  • Sexual and reproductive issues

Most of these issues are short-term, developing within 6 months of the treatment. Fortunately, these generally resolve themselves you have a chance to recover from the radiation treatment.


However, there are some long-term complications that could develop.


Radiation Necrosis

Radiation necrosis is when healthy tissue dies along with the cancerous tissue when undergoing radiation therapy. This generally happens when soft tissue and muscle tissue die and build up, forming a new tumor in the place of the old tumor. Some studies have suggested up to 24% of radiation treatments lead to radiation necrosis, with 10-15% developing symptoms.


Radiation necrosis can develop to be a major problem for the central nervous system. In fact, long-term issues stemming from radiation necrosis can develop as a result of radiation treatment.


Additionally, when you are suffering from radiation necrosis, your body may have difficulty building new tissue, fighting infection, or healing skin.


Radiation necrosis develops after radiation therapy has ended, and can develop in the months and years following treatment. Complications, including a reemergence of the initial tumors symptoms and a temporary decline in long-term memory, may develop.


In addition to the redevelopment of a tumor, common symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Weakness and soreness in your extremities
  • Headaches
  • Bleeding from the bowel or urinary tract

Unfortunately, in some cases radiation necrosis can be fatal if not treated.


Treating radiation necrosis

Given the danger of radiation necrosis, treating the condition, as well and attending to the symptoms, is extremely important once you’ve been diagnosed.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy for complications from radiation treatment

Hyperbaric oxygen treatment has proved to be an effective solution for helping treat the effects of radiation necrosis.


In effect, HBOT carries oxygen throughout your body, drastically aiding the healing process and helping reverse the negative effects of your radiation treatment.


Hyperbaric oxygen treatment for radiation necrosis is also often covered by most insurance companies.


HBOT has been shown to be effective in treating radiation induced damage to the:

  • Jaw
  • Head
  • Neck
  • Chest wall
  • Abdomen
  • Pelvis

Examples include:

  • Prevention of tooth loss or collapse of jaw bone in those with head or neck cancers
  • Promotion of successful skin grafts for patients with breast cancer
  • Eliminated chronic urinary bleeding in patients with prostate cancer

The reason for HBOT’s effectiveness in treating radiation necrosis is due to its ability to deliver much more pure oxygen to your bloodstream than under normal conditions. This oxygen stimulates the body and encourages it to regenerate blood vessels. It also promotes stem cell growth, decreases inflammation, reduces scarring, and strengthens the immune system.


If you are a new patient, give Urban Wellness Group a call at (503) 445-9771 to check benefits and see if your insurance covers hyperbaric oxygen treatment for radiation necrosis.



What is HBOT?

Hyperbaric oxygen treatments involve spending time in a pressurized chamber breathing in pure oxygen. This highly-oxygenated environment stimulates the body and...

  • Promotes healing in the body
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Increases circulation
  • Fights disease and infection


Can HBOT help with complication from radiation therapy?

HBOT is a proven way to aid in the treatment of radiation necrosis. Given the healing ability of adding oxygen to the bloodstream, hyperbaric oxygen treatment is an effective and non-invasive way to counteract radiation treatment.


2013 study states, “Symptoms were alleviated in 76% of patients with radiation cystitis, 89% of patients with radiation proctitis, and 88% of patients with combined cystitis and proctitis. The improvement was sustained at follow-up visits in both domains six to 12 months after receiving HBOT. No severe side effects related to HBOT were observed.”


If you’re interested in speaking with a physician at Urban Wellness Group about HBOT therapy, contact us today.

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