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Hyperbaric oxygen treatment for radiation damage to bowel (radiation proctitis) or bladder (radiation cystitis)

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Jim Marshall (not a doctor) said ...

We have radiation because prostate cancer cells cannot recover from radiation damage like healthy cells can. I was told that one reason for the weekend breaks in treatment was to allow these healthy cells to recover. 


While these healthy cells are recovering some men have problems with bladder or bowel. They find they have to go to the toilet more urgently or more frequently than before. Sometimes the fine blood vessels in the healing cells on the bowel or bladder walls are damaged by passing waste and blood shows in the toilet.


For most men these problems which fix themselves in a short time afterwards. But a few have continuing problems. Bowel problems are called radiation proctitis. Bladder problems are called radiation cystitis.


Earlier this week I was fortunate to hear a great talk at the Brisbane Prostate Cancer Support Group by Dr Graeme Kay, Deputy Director of the Wesley Centre for Hyperbaric Medicine.


From his talk I learned that there is clear evidence that many affected men can get relief, often permanent, using the hyperbaric chambers located in hospitals around the country.


But this relief comes at a great cost. Not financial - the $330 per day times 40 days is covered in public hospitals, and mostly covered by private health funds in private hospitals. The cost is personal - getting to a hospital every day for 8 weeks, and spending 2 hours there (with no electronic equipment) every day.


If you have urgency, frequency, or blood showing, you don't want to subject yourself to this unnecessarily.


Firstly your doctor will know that there are many more common explanations for some of these symptoms:

  • nerve damage that shows as lower back pain from injury or long term sitting in a bad position;
  • haemorrhoids (piles);
  • ulcerative colitis or Crone's disease;
  • infections;
  • polyps on the bowel; and
  • many more.


So your doctor will probably refer you to a specialist (gastroenterologist or colorectal surgeon for bowels, urologist for bladder) to take a look with a scope. 


The next step your doctor or specialist will take (if there is radiation damage not healing) is one of the first-line treatments. Dr Kay said that formaldehyde washes are an excellent first line treatment for bowel problems. Cauterisation (sometimes with a laser) is another used in both bladder and bowel. Both treatments leave a dead tissue on the surface (preserved tissue by formaldehyde, burn scar by cauterisation) and the new cells have an opportunity to grow strong underneath. Because the lining of the bowel and bladder renew themselves quickly, I expect the dead tissue on the surface drops away over time.


Finally, if it has been shown that radiation damage is the cause of your symptoms, and the first line treatments haven't worked, and your quality of life is being affected, hyperbaric treatment may be needed.


Hyperbaric treatment takes place in a pressurised room. You wear a plastic hood or mask that supplies pure oxygen. This oxygen, together with pressure such as you would experience on a ten to twenty metre scuba dive, does the healing.

... end Jim

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Jim Thank You for this, I went through 14 weeks of burning to the bowel and 3 trips to hospital on a Morphine drip, was told by the Hospital that it was Proctitis, my specialist said no it was not and that i was imaging it, and was probably scarring.

He was not the one who was in so much pain 8 hours a day that all I could do was lay their crying from the pain.

In the end my GP and Hospital kept me topped up with Morphine and pain killers, it is now 6 months since Radiation finished and things have improved tremendously, some bleeding and minor pain and I have survived this battle.

I have my next Zoladex August 14th and head to Africa for 6 weeks, on the 19th August, for a Safari and some quality time with my youngest son, 

who will fly in from Copenhagen.


Jim to you and all that help you out, THANK YOU so much for all you do for us out here, I am a single bloke and the help, advise and friendship that is given means that world to me.



Peter Renwick




Sent from my iPad

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