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Can Oxygen Therapy Be Used in Cancer Treatment?

Oxygen is quite easy to overlook and be taken for granted. It’s a colorless gas that’s all around us, accounting for roughly 21% of the Earth’s atmosphere. Oxygen is the world’s third most abundant element and an essential component of life.

Although there may not appear to be any link between oxygen and cancer, there may be more than meets the eye. Keep reading to learn more about cancer oxygen therapy.

What is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT)?

Oxygen therapy is a catch-all phrase for a variety of medical treatments aimed at introducing oxygen into the body, primarily to overwhelm tumors and cancer cells. Normal human cells require just the proper amount of oxygen to survive and thrive, as is well known and researched. When you change altitudes or do aerobic exercises, your body’s mechanisms govern how much oxygen your cells get, ensuring that your cells adapt and obtain enough oxygen.

Although the interaction between oxygen and cancer cells is complex, cancer cells are frequently deficient in oxygen. According to studies on human and animal breast cancer cells, tumor cells may be able to take advantage of this. Tumor cells had an increased likelihood of surviving when exposed to low oxygen levels, which aided their ability to spread through the bloodstream.

Doctors may be able to kill a cancer cell and regulate or limit tumor cell proliferation with oxygen treatment. Other forms of treatment, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy, may be made more effective by introducing oxygen to cancer cells.

Multiple types of oxygen therapy are used in cancer treatments, but one of the most common is hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT).

This oxygen therapy involves breathing pure oxygen while staying within a pressurized hyperbaric oxygen chamber (O2). Hyperbaric oxygen therapy can aid in the improvement of cancer treatment outcomes and the healing of side effects such as radiation necrosis produced by radiation therapy.

Additional Read: Common myths you need to know about hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

Can Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Treat Cancer?

There has been a lot of research into the use of hyperbaric oxygen as a cancer treatment, with mixed or inconclusive results. In 2015, Boston scientists made waves with research that found that flushing tumors with oxygen may improve the efficacy of some medicines.

However, the American Cancer Society stated in the same article that “available scientific evidence does not support assertions that infusing oxygen-releasing compounds into a person’s body is useful in cancer treatment.” According to a 2012 assessment by Norwegian experts, hyperbaric oxygen reduced the growth of some malignancies but not others. More research is needed, according to the authors.

The ability of oxygen therapy to treat cancer and some of the negative effects of cancer surgery and other treatments are still being studied in clinical trials.

The outcomes in shrinking cancer cells themselves are essentially non-existent for the money and effort invested.

HBOT can, however, help with major issues that arise as a result of cancer treatment. If you’ve had radiation therapy, you’ve almost certainly suffered side effects. That is, you experience troubles as a result of the cancer treatment, not cancer itself.

How Can HBOT Help Cancer Patients?

There are multiple ways in which HBOT can help cancer patients. Here’s a quick overview of what treatment with HBOT can do:

  • Increases oxygen levels in locations where they have fallen below normal due to illness or injury.
  • Stimulates the formation of new blood vessels so that more oxygen and nutrients can be delivered to the tissues.
  • Improves the white blood cells’ ability to fight bacteria and prevent illness.
  • Reduces any swelling, pressure, and pain associated with wounds.

HBOT treatment can help in those situations where body tissues have low oxygen levels.

HBOT treatment may be offered to cancer patients for the following reasons:

  • Treating the long-term side effects of radiotherapy
  • Issues with skin grafts
  • Infections and wounds that are difficult to treat.

Can Cancer Radiation-Related Health Problems Benefit from HBOT?

The oxygen supply to tissues in the treated area may change as a result of radiotherapy. This is because radiotherapy affects both cancer cells and normal cells, and blood vessels.

Radiotherapy has the potential to harm tiny blood vessels in the treated area. The amount of blood delivered to that area may be reduced as a result of this. It becomes more difficult for oxygen and nutrients to enter the tissues as a result of this.

The tissues that are impacted may get weaker and break down over time (ulcerate). Some tissues may perish totally in rare cases (radiation necrosis). Radiation damage can develop gradually over months or years.

The oxygen supply to injured tissue is increased with HBOT treatment. This promotes the formation of new blood vessels and the healing of tissues.

According to research, HBOT treatment may be beneficial in alleviating the following side effects of radiation.

Chronic radiation cystitis

Chronic radiation cystitis is a condition that occurs after exposure to radiation.
Some types of pelvic cancer are treated using radiotherapy, which is a type of radiation. The pelvis is defined as the region between the hips. The bladder is located in the pelvic region. As a result, radiation to this area may occasionally result in long-term irritation of the urinary bladder (chronic cystitis).

HBOT treatment may be beneficial in alleviating these symptoms. It may be used in situations where other treatments have failed.

Osteoradionecrosis

Cancers of the head and neck are frequently treated with radiotherapy.

The tissues in the immediate vicinity of this location are easily injured. A surgical procedure performed prior to radiotherapy can enhance the likelihood of damage occurring. In rare cases, a section of bone is impacted, and it begins to break down and die. Osteoradionecrosis (ORN) is the medical term for this condition. Damage to the bones can also occur when radiotherapy is administered to other parts of the body, such as the chest or the pelvis.

Following radiotherapy for head and neck cancer, you may be prescribed HBOT treatment. The goal is to aid in the prevention of injury to the jawbone.

The effects of chronic radiation on the bowel

Radiotherapy used to treat cancers of the pelvis has the potential to harm the bowel. The gut is extremely sensitive, and radiation damage can occasionally result in long-term illness.

When alternative therapies have failed to relieve these symptoms, HBOT treatment may be an option to consider.

What to Expect From Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment

In most cases, hyperbaric oxygen therapy is conducted as an outpatient operation, although it can also be provided while you are hospitalized.

Hyperbaric oxygen chambers are generally classified into two categories:

  • A single-person unit with a single bed. During a single session, you lie down on a table that slides into a transparent plastic compartment.
  • A room that can accommodate a large number of people. You can either sit or lie down in a multiperson hyperbaric oxygen room, which is often the size of a big hospital waiting room. You may be provided with oxygen by wearing a mask over your face or by wearing a lightweight, clear hood over your head.

The benefits of hyperbaric oxygen therapy are the same whether you’re in a single or group setting for the treatment.

Air pressure in the room is approximately two to three times greater than the typical air pressure during therapy. As a result of the increased air pressure, you may experience a transient sensation of fullness in your ears, similar to what you might experience on a flight or at a high altitude. It is possible to alleviate this sensation by yawning or swallowing.

Most conditions require hyperbaric oxygen therapy to be administered over a two-hour period. Through the course of your treatment, members of your healthcare team will keep an eye on you and the therapy unit.

Your therapy team evaluates you by taking your blood pressure and pulse, as well as checking in your ears, and performing other procedures. The level of your blood glucose is measured if you have diabetes.

Following your treatment, you may feel a little sleepy or hungry. Normal activities shouldn’t be hindered as a result of this.

You will most likely require more than one session of hyperbaric oxygen therapy in order to get the benefits. The number of sessions you will need is determined by your medical condition. Some illnesses, such as carbon monoxide poisoning, may be addressed in as few as three office visits. Others, such as nonhealing wounds, may necessitate 40 or more treatments to be effective.

If hyperbaric oxygen therapy is found to be beneficial in treating authorized medical problems, it is usually part of a comprehensive treatment plan that includes various therapies and medications that are customized to meet your specific requirements.

Contact NexGen Hyperbaric Today

If you’re suffering from a problem caused by cancer radiation and all other therapies have failed, hyperbaric oxygen therapy may be the next step for you to consider trying. If you or your doctor are thinking about doing so, contact NexGen Hyperbaric today.

Studies and Research

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4635883/
https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/how_cancer_stem_cells_thrive_when_oxygen_is_scarce_
https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11523-012-0233-x
https://scienceblog.cancerresearchuk.org/2019/05/02/tackling-side-effects-in-head-and-neck-cancer-treatment-the-end-of-the-road-for-hyperbaric-oxygen/
https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/side-effects/constipation/gi-complications-pdq
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0891584916311376