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LATE EFFECTS OF RADIATION THERAPY

 

Radiation therapy is a vital part of cancer treatment and radiation oncologists try to maximize safety with each treatment. Still, radiation doses needed to destroy tumors can damage healthy tissues and body structures in the path of radiation. Most people have early side effects of radiation that resolve spontaneously.

The severity of these effects vary by individual. Late effects of radiation therapy have to do with a permanent change in the affected tissue.

The tissue with late radiation damage has decreased oxygen, decreased blood supply and its cells are generally smaller and more fragile.

This means that the tissue can’t heal normally. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy works to restore blood flow and oxygenation to the tissue that has been devitalized by radiation. A good example of this is radiation of the head and neck. Often, when the head is irradiated the lower jaw is in the path of radiation. The mandible, or jawbone, absorbs a high dose of radiation because it is so thick. Eventually the radiation causes a loss of small blood vessels and low oxygen in previously healthy tissue. If a radiated jaw were wounded, i.e. by removing a tooth at the dentist’ s office, this might set off a chain of events.

First, because the oxygen level in the jaw is low, the tooth extraction site cannot heal normally and the white cells are noy effective in fighting off infection. The wounded bone tissue often dies. This requires surgical removal. If a person who had radiation of the jaw came for hyperbaric treatment before and after a tooth extraction, a healthy amount of blood vessels and oxygenation would enable the jaw to heal properly.

Late radiation effects can occur in any area of the body and most areas can be healed with hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Radiation tissue disease is a chronic condition that can be easily be treated in an outpatient hyperbaric center such as Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment Centers in Randolph, Massachusetts.