The Role Oxygen Plays with Cancer Cells and How HBOT Helps

A cancer patient receiving treatment

Our body’s cells require oxygen for growth, and, for many years, physicians believed that cancer cells also needed oxygen to grow, thus turning away from any type of oxygen therapy. However, through studies, physicians determined that cancer cells thrive in oxygen-deprived environments, often resulting in the hypoxemia (inadequate blood oxygen levels) seen in cancer patients. So, contrary to previous beliefs, increased oxygen levels, as delivered through HBOT, hinder cancer growth. Studies, like one in 2009 by researchers at Oxford University, showed that injecting oxygen into solid tumors significantly increased the chances of patient recovery and increased the effectiveness of chemotherapy treatments on the cancer cells.

Specific Cancers and The Response to HBOT Treatments

Two hyperbaric chambers
Hyperbaric Chambers


In most cases, HBOT therapy works together with traditional cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation. However, recent studies are showing promising results that HBOT treatments can play a crucial in cancer treatments. A 2010 study published in Cancer Biology and Therapy showed that the use of HBOT therapy on an ovarian tumor in mice, administered daily for 21 days, significantly reduced tumor growth. They took it one step further and added a chemotherapy agent alongside HBOT therapy in other mice. Results showed that the combination reduced the tumor volume within two weeks.

Numerous studies over the last few years have looked at the connection between HBOT treatments and various types of brain cancer. In a 2015 study published in Oncology Letters, researchers looked at whether HBOT treatments would be effective for patients newly diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), a very aggressive brain cancer with a poor prognosis. They determined that the addition of HBOT treatments is an effective therapeutic option and can improve the prognosis for patients.

Another study published in April 2018 showed that the use of HBOT along with radiotherapy greatly reduced the mortality rate in patients diagnosed with head or neck cancer. In addition, tumor recurrence was less likely with the addition of HBOT treatments.

Treating Cancer Related Complications With HBOT

Patient Receiving Radiation Therapy for Sarcoma (Cancer) of the Leg
Patient Receiving Radiation Therapy for Sarcoma (Cancer) of the Leg

In addition to working alongside traditional treatments to battle cancer, HBOT, or hyperbaric oxygen, is also a treatment option for many cancer-treatment associated conditions. Radiation and chemotherapy are hard on the body and, while they do work to kill cancer cells, they also create problems of their own. We closely address these conditions below.

Fatigue

In this case, both traditional treatments and cancer itself can cause fatigue. As HBOT has found success with patients suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, cancer patients often find relief from their debilitating fatigue.

Anemia

Anemia, or a low volume of red blood cells, is often a side effect from both cancer and cancer treatments. Because HBOT therapy stimulates the bone marrow, production of red blood cells increases.

Mucositis and Esophagitis

Mucositis is inflammation and ulceration of the membranes in the digestive tract. Esophagitis is the inflammation of the esophagus. Both these conditions can be debilitating complications of chemotherapy and radiation. They occur most frequently when doctors use both therapy options together. HBOT treatments work to reduce the swelling, speed healing, and fight off pseudomonas and other bacterial infections common with these conditions.

Chemo Brain

Regular treatments with chemotherapy agents and radiation can cause what is termed chemo brain or brain fog. This is a reduction in short-term and long-term memory. Additionally, it contributes to delayed reactions and other cognitive issues. In one case, a 56-year old woman received a lumpectomy in 1993, along with chemotherapy and radiation. After these treatments, her memory and critical thinking abilities declined. By 1996, she was no longer able to work. In 2002, she was treated with 20 one-hour HBOT treatments and showed significant memory and thinking improvement. This allowed her to return to work for the first time in six years.

Cancer Treatments, Radiation Necrosis, and HBOT

Radiation necrosis is a severe side effect of radiation therapy often used to treat cancers tumors. While radiation works to damage the cancer cells, it also damages healthy, normal cells. This damage leads to severe tissue and bone destruction. The type of radiation necrosis depends on where the damage is.

If radiation therapy treated pelvic or abdominal tumors, you may experience bleeding from the bladder (radiation cystitis), small bowel (radiation enteritis) or rectum (radiation proctitis).

For head tumors, you may see necrosis in the jaw, teeth, and throat.

In cases of breast, lung and chest tumors, you may see necrosis of the soft tissue in the chest wall. This results in a reduced range of motion or lymph node swelling.

HBOT, or hyperbaric oxygen treatments, have been used since the 1970s to treat cancer-related radiation necrosis with great success. Because HBOT delivers 100 percent oxygen, the damaged tissue receives a far greater concentration of oxygen. This promotes better healing. Not only does the increased oxygen repair damaged tissue, but it also helps to repair damaged blood vessels.


When it comes to cancer care, HBOT can help in a variety of different ways. To learn more or to set up an initial consultation, contact our office. Dr. Spiegel and his team will work with your current cancers treatments and physicians to develop a treatment plan just for you. You may also click
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