There’s no doubt radiation therapy can make the difference between life and death for cancer patients, but unfortunately it often comes at a cost.
Radiation therapy is associated with harsh side effects, many of which don’t emerge until months or years after treatment. Acute side effects occur and disappear within 14 days of treatment, but long-term effects like bone degeneration, skin ulcers, and bladder irritation take much longer to manifest.
The complications of radiation therapy are frustrating, painful, and often embarrassing, but using ongoing therapy, such as hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), can accelerate your radiation therapy recovery in a natural way and stop your symptoms from defining your quality of life.
What Are the Different Types of Radiation Treatments?
Radiation therapy uses concentrated doses of radiation to kill cancer cells and reduce the size of tumors. Depending on the type of cancer present in the body, one of two types of radiation therapy may be used.
External beam radiation therapy uses a large machine to send radiation into the specific area containing cancer. The radiation machine never touches the body, but it does move around to deliver radiation into precise parts of the body. External beam radiation is the most common type of treatment for many cancers.
Internal radiation therapy, on the other hand, uses a solid or liquid radiation source to physically deliver radiation inside the body. If a solid source of radiation is used, it only targets a specific part of the body for localized treatment, especially for cancers of the head, neck, breast, cervix, prostate, and eye. If a liquid source of radiation is used, it’s considered a systemic therapy that travels through the blood into tissues throughout the entire body.
Radiation therapy is often used in conjunction with other treatments or surgeries to target cancer in the most strategic way possible. It’s often used to make surgery easier by shrinking the size of the tumor beforehand. Radiation therapy is even used during surgery to go straight into cancer cells without passing through the skin.
How Long Does It Take to Recover From Radiation Treatment?
Everything from your age at the time of radiation to the type of cancer treated can influence your path to radiation recovery. Even though most radiation treatments only target specific collections of cancer cells, the effects of radiation can easily spread to nearby cells. Most recover within a few weeks, but some injuries develop later or require a longer recovery process.
Decreased Bone Density
Radiation is so potent that it can weaken the bones and cause osteoporosis and osteonecrosis. Since bones are living and growing organisms, radiation harms their active cells and stunts their strength. The ribs in your chest or bones in your leg may become far more vulnerable to fractures and breaks.
Bowel and Bladder Dysfunction
Just like radiation harms cells in your bones, it also affects the cells in your bowel and bladder. You might experience blood in your urine, reduced bladder control, sexual dysfunction, and interruptions to your daily routine.
The concentrated exposure of X-rays during radiation therapy often causes painful burns across the skin. As X-rays pass through the skin, they produce dangerous free radicals that damage DNA, injure skin tissue, and trigger inflammation. This side effect is so common that about 85% of radiation patients experience moderate to severe burns during and after treatment
Radiation burns occur soon after treatment, but due to the body’s reduced capacity to heal, skin damage can last for months or years without proper intervention. This is especially true since radiation treatments are scheduled in quick succession, limiting the time your skin has to heal and repair between doses.
Burning takes many different forms after radiation. Many of these symptoms of radiation burns become aggravated over time, including moistness, blistering, pigmentation changes, peeling, and itching.
How Long Does It Take for Radiation Side Effects to Go Away?
The general effects of radiation therapy like fatigue, nausea, and headaches resolve fairly quickly after treatment. Your body just needs time to process the radiation but can recover within a few weeks.
Delayed side effects of radiation therapy, on the other hand, may require further treatment to alleviate. It’s important to use an ongoing therapy like hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) to enhance the body’s healing response and optimize the body’s response to radiation damage. Without additional care, some radiation side effects like burns and inflammation can morph into chronic, non-healing wounds that trigger additional health complications.
How Can Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) Speed Up Radiation Recovery?
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) makes it possible to minimize and even reverse your radiation symptoms. It uses powerful 100% oxygen at pressures above regular atmospheric pressure to stream oxygen through your bloodstream.
The pressure of HBOT drives oxygen not just into the bloodstream, but also into lymph tissue, bone tissue, red blood cells, and other critical locations. Since oxygen is critical for all healing functions, HBOT can reduce cell death, relieve pain, stimulate new growth of blood vessels, and boost circulation.
As a result, tissues damaged by radiation or suffering from nutrient deficiencies can quickly become revitalized and enhanced. The oxygenation that occurs during HBOT promotes cellular growth that combats the harmful effects of radiation therapy and helps you recover more efficiently.
The Bottom Line: Expert Wound Care for Radiation Wounds
As a patient of radiation therapy, you need ongoing and personalized wound care to help you overcome radiation injuries and side effects. You deserve to get that help in the comfortable, refreshing, and attractive environment offered by R3 Wound Care and Hyperbarics.
With five convenient locations throughout Texas, R3 Wound Care provides advanced therapies like HBOT previously only available at large medical institutions. Every HBOT treatment at R3 occurs in a clear acrylic chamber where you relax, recline, and enjoy a good book or movie for a few hours.
Visit the R3 location closest to you today to learn more about this natural alternative healing treatment and its potential to finally liberate you from your painful radiation side effects.
Lana Cameron has been practicing for over 30 years in several healthcare settings as a clinician and administrator. Her areas of practice include hospital acute care and primary care group practice. Lana received her BSN from UTMB Galveston, a MSN from Texas A&M Corpus Christi, and Post-Masters Certificate from UTHSC San Antonio. Lana is married and has five wonderful children.