Radiation treatment for female reproductive cancers, targeting areas such as the abdomen, pelvis and spine, may cause long-term harm to the reproductive organs, including the vagina, cervix, and uterus.
Though the ultimate goal is to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors, radiation has been known to cause damage to surrounding healthy cells as well, resulting in an array of conditions, many of which do not manifest until several months—or even years—following the completion of treatment. These high-energy rays may originate from an external beam or a device that is placed internally. Both can experience difficulties concentrating their effects directly on the cancerous cells.
Radiation Injury Prevalent Following Treatment of Female Reproductive Cancer
Complications of pelvic radiation in those treated for gynecologic malignancies vary from patient to patient, and can affect the bladder, the G.I. tract, as well as the vagina itself. This damage may present as urinary urgency, blood in the urine, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and even rectal bleeding.
The walls of the vagina may become thin and susceptible to bleeding and infection. Even intercourse may become challenging. If the ovaries are included in the radiation field, eggs can be destroyed, leading to infertility—or even early menopause—in certain instances.
Radiation to the uterus can result in scarring and decreased blood flow, preventing the organ from stretching to full size during pregnancy. This can lead to increased risk of miscarriage, low birth weight, and a higher likelihood of premature births.
These issues are particularly prevalent in women who have undergone radiation treatment during childhood, before the uterus began to grow. It is recommended that pregnancy be avoided until radiation is complete to avoid undue harm to the fetus.
HBOT Effective in Treating Symptoms of Delayed Radiation Damage
The toxicity experienced by pelvic radiation patients often progresses as the pathologic process evolves in those anatomic locations. These changes may be slow and progressive, and may become clinically evident even years later, making it difficult to link the symptoms to the radiation.
As a board-certified OB/GYN, I've worked with many patients who have received radiation therapy as part of their cancer treatment program. For these women, the effects of delayed radiation injury may be life-altering, making it difficult or painful to control urination or bowel movements. Intercourse may become painful or impossible. Even though the cancer may have been cured, the patient's quality of life has been significantly impaired.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been demonstrated to be quite effective in alleviating symptoms of delayed radiation injury by regenerating blood vessels, repopulating the damaged area with new stem cells, and accelerating all stages of wound healing. It can reverse much of the damage that delayed radiation may cause, leading to improved quality of life and a return to normalcy.
To schedule a consultation, contact Hyperbaric Medical Solutions today.