Expert OpinionHyperbarics 101

Healing the Men We Love

By Lisa St. John, M.S.
Healing the Men We Love
In 2019 alone, 224,733 men were diagnosed with Prostate cancer, which is comparable to the number of breast cancer diagnoses in women, a topic we discussed last month.

While we know that radiation treatment is so essential in fighting cancer, the challenge is that radiation can also damage surrounding tissues. This damage far too often results in conditions such as radiation proctitis (damage to the colon) and radiation cystitis (damage to the bladder). Patients can also incur other complications to their pelvic and abdomen area. Such complications can lead to incontinence and pain performing everyday activities, which can become debilitating in so many ways. I am very proud to say that hyperbaric oxygen therapy has helped numerous patients at Bay Area Hyperbarics recover from such damage to their colon, bladder, head and neck, breasts, bones and soft tissues.

Years of research has found that hyperbaric oxygen therapy combats otherwise painful complication of radiation therapy, as an adjunct to your physician’s care1. Having Bay Area Hyperbarics partner with your doctors creates a powerful professional team that can heal you or your loved one both from the cancer and the damage that radiation causes2

Perhaps the most frustrating part of having radiation cystitis or radiation proctitis is that your doctor cannot predict when these difficult conditions will end. Some patients experience severe symptoms decades after radiation therapy.

Challenges for Those with Radiation Cystitis

Patients who have had radiation therapy, or have had prostate surgery can experience a number of complications and side effects. Among those that can occur when the bladder is damaged are3:

  • Burning sensations when urinating
  • Passing painful clots
  • Urinary urgency and frequency, both day and night
  • Incontinence
  • Bleeding
  • Increased urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • Severe damage to the lymphatic system (somewhat more rare)
  • Paralysis (very small percentage).

Traditional treatments often include blood transfusions or surgery, which is often painful. That said, hyperbaric oxygen therapy successfully heals patients with radiation cystitis more than 75% of the time4.

Challenges for Those with Radiation Proctitis

Patients who have had radiation therapy, or have had prostate surgery can experience a number of complications and side effects. Among those that can occur when the rectum is damaged are5:

  • A continuous or frequent feeling that you need to have a bowel movement
  • Mucus drainage from the rectum
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Rectal pain (continuous) or pain during bowel movements
  • Diarrhea
  • A feeling of fullness in your rectum
  • Pain on the left side of your abdomen
  • Abdominal cramps

Fortunately, hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been shown to reduce and often heal damage caused from radiation by over 75%6.

Why Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is a Solution

The good news is that hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a proven treatment for radiation damage, without the side effects of other treatments. At Bay Area Hyperbarics, we have seen numerous patients with collateral radiation damage, sometimes 20 years after their radiation treatments. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy has helped to eliminate or significantly decrease these side effects in over 90% of patients.

In short, hyperbaric oxygen therapy halts degradation from radiation in the body and prevents worsening of the symptoms and damage. It also helps the body heal by:

  • Growing new tiny blood vessels, which feed healthy new cells
  • Growing new stem cells and migrating them to damaged areas
  • Stimulating bone cells to reproduce rapidly
  • Down-regulating inflammatory cells, which reduces swelling and pain, and also makes it easier for the urologist to see the bladder tissue more clearly.

Even though we have treated patients with damage from years earlier, we encourage people with radiation damage to get their hyperbaric oxygen treatments early, because the greater the radiation damage, the harder it is to treat, and at times it can be so advanced that it is impossible to treat. We want you or your loved-one to be healthy and to return to as normal a life as possible, so contact us as soon as you or your loved one experiences potential complications. We can work with your doctor to get you started on Hyperbarics.

We have personal experience with hyperbarics healing radiation damage: We are proud to mention that Fiona St. John—my mom—was treated successfully for radiation damage with hyperbaric oxygen decades after her radiation exposure. Since then, we have been treating patients like Fiona with great success.

HBOT is Covered by Insurance, including Medicare

Beyond its effectiveness and myriad applications, what is also typically unknown is that HBOT is covered by Medicare and approved by many mainstream health insurance providers, including Medicare, Kaiser, Aetna, Anthem Blue Cross, and United Health Care. What many people do not know is that insurance not only covers hyperbarics for damage from radiation, mastectomy or reconstructive surgery. Insurance also covers HBOT for pain, loss of range of motion, and swelling that results from these cancer therapies.

How Can I Get my Doctor to Refer me for Treatment?

To educate your gynecologist, oncologist, radiologist, or family doctor about the value of hyperbarics, to see if it is right for you, feel free to point them here, send them the link to our treatable diagnosis page for radiation damage to the breast, or download a brochure to print and hand them. You can also get a referral in three easy steps:

  • Have your physician's office download the patient referral form , fill it out and send it back to us.
  • We call your insurance to get authorizations.
  • You come into our clinic for an intake, and start hyperbarics. We're open 7 days a week.

It's really quite simple to get you or your loved-one on the road to recovery and wellness.

Lisa St. John, M.S.
Lisa St. John, M.S.
Clinic Director and Founder

Lisa is our Clinic Director and Founder. She earned her Master’s degree from Harvard University, completed a Fellowship at Stanford University, and has spent the last 30 years working in the healthcare field.

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