The Afterglow of Radiation
Radiation therapy has come a long way since its inception. Radiation therapy, also called radiotherapy, first developed in the late 1890’s after the discovery of the x-ray in 1896. The treatment involves the use of high-energy waves such as gamma rays, electron beams, protons or x-rays to destroy tumors. For many years, radiation therapy involved an uncontrolled blast to the affected region of the body, which often resulted in damage to surrounding healthy tissues and in some cases, new forms of cancer. Fortunately, advanced technologies are continually being developed to target smaller, localized areas as close to tumor sites as possible to reduce damage. While science is getting closer to eliminating radiation injuries, they aren’t there quite yet. Many radiation patients still suffer from burns, tissue death, inflammation, infections and other side effects as a result of their treatments.
Hyperbaric therapy for radiation damage is well studied and commonly utilized in oncology wards all over the world. Radionecrosis (tissue death) has been successfully treated and documented, as well as internal and external burns, infections and open wounds. Hyperbaric therapy positively affects the genes involved in inflammation control and tissue repair. Anecdotes and testimonials show that some patients experience recovery even years after their initial treatment and injuries.
Virginia Mason, Seattle, WA
Radiation Tissue Injury
Radiation injury to tissues (radionecrosis, radiation necrosis, osteoradionecrosis) is a complication or “side effect” of radiation therapy for a tumor. This occurs because the radiation can damage normal cells as well tumor cells. Destruction of nutrient blood vessels in the irradiated area can result in local poor or non-healing wounds (ulceration), destruction of bone (necrosis) and bleeding.
Types of radiation injury
Radiation therapy for pelvic or abdominal tumors may result in bleeding or other symptoms. Bleeding from the bladder (radiation cystitis), small bowel (radiation enteritis) or rectum (radiation proctitis) are the most common complications. Symptoms of frequency, urgency, pain, incontinence and diarrhea may be experienced as well.
Radiation treatments for head and neck cancer can cause long-term damage (necrosis) to the jaws, teeth and throat. Local non-healing wounds (ulceration) and decaying teeth (dental carries) are the most common side effects but may also include difficulty eating or swallowing, dry mouth or hoarseness.
Radiation of the chest for breast or lung cancer may result in soft tissue radionecrosis of the chest wall with symptoms of reduced range of motion or swelling of the lymph nodes.