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Pelvic Radiation May Lead to Long-Term Damage for Men

Doctor consulting a patient

Prostate cancer is the second most frequent cancer, and fifth leading cause of cancer death among males in the world—surpassing bladder cancer and renal carcinoma as the most prevalent urological malignancy.

Cancer Treatment Pros & Cons

Though the most common treatment has traditionally been surgery, many patients undergo an initial round of high-energy radiation in an attempt to shrink the mass to a more manageable size, if not eliminate it altogether, by destroying the genetic material which controls how cancer cells grow and divide.

Though the goal is to spare as much of the surrounding tissue as possible, there is risk in damaging otherwise healthy cells, resulting in instances of delayed radiation tissue damage in the months, or even years, following initial treatment. This is often dependent upon the radiation dosage and amount of healthy tissue exposed. 


Radiation Damage in Prostate Cancer Patients

Symptoms of this condition vary patient to patient, and can include hemorrhage; hematuria—the presence of blood in a person’s urine; increased urinary frequency; incontinence; dysuria—painful or difficult urination; erectile dysfunction; the formation of non-healing wounds, resulting in abnormal swelling and inflammation; tissue/cellular hypoxia, resulting from a deprivation of oxygen; and stem cell depletion. 

Radiation cystitis has been known to be an adverse effect of cancer treatment, especially in radiotherapy targeting the pelvic region. The main presenting symptom is hematuria, which can range from mild to severe and result in a life-threatening hemorrhage. Other effects include proctitis and development of ulcers in the rectal area.


The Role of HBOT in Treating Delayed Radiation Injury

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) has demonstrated an ability to control any resulting bleeding, alleviating hematuria over time. By facilitating increased absorption and hypersaturation of oxygen in the plasma of the blood, HBOT promotes angiogenesis—the formation of new blood vessels, enhanced cellular function, stem cell proliferation, and leukocyte oxidative killing. 

HBOT has anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce swelling and provide relief for ischemia—a restriction in blood supply, which causes a shortage of oxygen. And finally, HBOT enhances re-oxygenation, tissue formation, and collagen synthesis to decrease fibrosis. 


For more information on hyperbaric oxygen therapy, and how it can be used to alleviate symptoms of delayed radiation injury, contact Hyperbaric Medical Solutions today.


Written by Alan Katz, MD, FUHM, FACEP, FAAEM

Dr. Alan Katz, National Medical Director of Hyperbaric Medical Solutions (HMS), is double board certified in Emergency Medicine and Hyperbaric Medicine. He directs clinical operations, as well as education and research initiatives for HMS, particularly in exploring the use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy....

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