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Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

July 13, 2018
Est. Reading: 4 minutes

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT)

It has long been known in the medical field that proper body healing and resistance to infection cannot occur without oxygen.
Researchers believe that oxygen plays a crucial role in all the significant processes involved in wound healing, including promoting resistance to infection, activating fibroblasts, facilitating collagen deposition, supporting angiogenesis, and enabling epithelization.

Under normal circumstances, oxygen is carried through the body by red blood cells only; this is sufficient for a healthy person to have all the oxygen required to maintain normal functioning. But what about when someone is sick, and how does this play a role in cancer treatment?

hbo therapy

The hypoxic environment surrounds the cancer tumor. This hypoxic environment is a critical hallmark of solid tumors and a protective shield for anything trying to kill the cancer. Hypoxia directly involves enhanced tumor cell survival, angiogenesis, glycolytic metabolism, and metastasis.

Additionally, research has shown that hypoxia increases genetic instability, activates invasive growth, and sustains the cancer cell in its rapidly dividing undifferentiated state. Hypoxia facilitates cancer tumor growth and proliferation, and studies have shown its implication in resistance to chemotherapy and radiation.

It is due to a decreased effectiveness in delivery to a hypoxic area, and hypoxia induces cellular adaptations, which lead to resistance. Higher chemotherapy and radiation doses are required to outweigh the hypoxia. This dangerous cycle can fuel cancer growth, so what is an alternative treatment plan?

hbo therapy

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a medical treatment where a patient receives 100% pure oxygen delivered through a tube or in a pressurized room. 

When undergoing HBOT, oxygen enters all bodily fluids (not just the red blood cells), including lymph, bones, plasma, and central nervous system fluids. It enables oxygen to reach all areas of the body that red blood cells may not be able to get to, providing concentrated oxygen to any damaged tissues to promote healing. 

HBOT can significantly reduce inflammation in the body. High oxygen levels can promote the growth of new blood vessels but not cancer cells because that happens through anaerobic activity. Since cancer cells proliferate anaerobically, the increased concentrated oxygen to a tumor area will prevent further growth and overwhelm the cancer cells inducing apoptosis (cellular death). 

Think about an NFL player on the sidelines receiving oxygen. They have depleted energy levels and require pure oxygen for replenishment. When a patient is undergoing chemotherapy and radiation, which can be toxic to normal cells, the HBOT can help to fill life back into those cells. It will also help reduce the hypoxia surrounding the tumor, leaving tumor cells more sensitive to chemotherapy and radiation. 

By administering concentration oxygen to a hypoxic area, you’re wiping out that “protective shield,” leaving the cancer tumor more exposed to radiation. Forcing oxygen into cells that multiply anaerobically will kill them because they lack the defenses to survive. Furthermore, radiation (more local than chemotherapy) forms unstable hydrogen and hydroxyl radicals. These radicals react with molecular oxygen, leading to severe DNA strand damage and cell death. 

It leads scientists to conclude that radiation treatment gives an optimal therapeutic result in well-oxygenated tumor tissue.

HBOT can also repair any chronic damages that were caused by radiation exposure, as well as lessen the side effects one experiences with undergoing chemotherapy and radiation. Side effects, including dizziness, fatigue, weakness, and shortness of breath, are due to anemia, which is decreased oxygen-carrying red blood cells. Increased oxygen will help to eliminate anemia and, therefore, relieve those side effects. 

Chemotherapy and radiation can also cause infections, fever, sore throat, wounds that do not heal, or inflammation due to decreased white blood cells; with HBOT, oxygen can get into the lymph system to help restore white blood cell levels. Chemotherapy can also cause low platelet count, increasing bruising and bleeding. Patients may experience nosebleeds, bleeding gums, and blood in urine or stool; it can generate a heavier menstrual flow for women. With HBOT, oxygen can enter the plasma and help boost platelet counts.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT)HBOT helps to stimulate stem cell growth.

Stem cells are brand-new cells that have not yet differentiated into a specific type. Meaning they have the potential to convert into any cell. Certain illnesses or diseases can coax or call them to action. For example, someone with diabetes can introduce stem cells into their pancreas, and they will develop into insulin-releasing cells. Someone with heart failure can introduce stem cells into the heart, and they will grow into new, solid cardiac muscle.

A landmark study at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine revealed that HBOT dramatically increases stem cell activity. Results were astounding in that after only one treatment of HBOT, stem cells had doubled! These brand-new stem cells will go to areas affected by chemotherapy and radiation to help rebuild. Some people with cancer, especially leukemia or lymphoma, may need a stem cell transplant, but HBOT may help so that the patient does not need another procedure.

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