Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for Breast Cancer Radiation Injury

Healing After Radiation

Many women will require radiation therapy as part of their treatment plan. In some cases, some complications may arise months to years after radiation, resulting in ulceration to the breast that may require further surgery.   Irradiated tissue is not like unirradiated tissue in that it doesn’t heal as well. Therefore you may be at higher risk of complications for radiation injury if you have surgery.

This therapy reduces complications from surgery performed in the irradiated area. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (also referred to as HBOT or HBO2) is most effective when started before surgery and immediately after surgery, allowing your body to build up new blood vessels before the surgery and then supporting that tissue with extra doses of oxygen to enhance healing.

If radiation and surgery are part of your treatment plan, get a hyperbaric consult before surgery. You don’t want to miss the opportunity to use hyperbaric oxygen therapy by thinking about it after your surgery or after your wound has failed to heal.

What is Hyberbaric Oxygen Therapy?

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a medical treatment that involves breathing pure oxygen in a pressurized environment. Under these conditions, your blood plasma will absorb much more oxygen than would be possible at normal atmospheric pressure. As your blood carries this extra oxygen throughout your body, this helps fight bacteria and stimulates the release of substances called growth factors and stem cells, which promote healing.


Under normal circumstances, only red blood cells transport oxygen through the blood. In some cases this may not be adequate to deliver enough oxygen to radiation injured tissues. Oxygen has a profound influence over wound healing, and any oxygen deficiency stunts the body’s ability to heal injuries.

Without oxygen, cells can’t produce the energy needed for bacterial defense, regeneration, collagen synthesis, or essential reparative functions. Instead, the healing process slows until it comes to a full halt. The body needs concentrated oxygen flow to overcome its deficiencies —Simply inhaling oxygen is not enough.

Pure and pressurized oxygen helps promote wound healing in several ways. Oxygen is normally concentrated in our red blood cells, but through HBOT, oxygen is dissolved into other bodily fluids (like plasma) and then transported to areas starved for oxygen. This process:

  • Reduces tissue swelling by flooding cells with oxygen.
  •  Promotes formation of new blood vessels, connective tissue, and skin cells.
  • Prevents tissue damage by encouraging natural oxygen radical scavengers to seek out problem areas.
  • Resists infection by blocking harmful bacteria and strengthening the immune system.

What are the benefits?

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy makes it possible to deliver the concentrated oxygen needed for wound healing. Using an FDA-approved medical grade hard-sided hyperbaric chamber, this therapy helps oxygen dissolve directly into all of the body’s fluids so that it can thoroughly permeate areas where circulation has become reduced or blocked.
This essential benefit of hyperbaric oxygen therapy stimulates and supports the body’s own healing process. When white blood cells receive enough oxygen, they can effectively kill bacteria, reduce swelling, and allow the rapid reproduction of new blood vessels. It even enables cells to build new connective tissue.

Am I a candidate for Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?

If you have had radiation as part of your cancer treatment, you MAY be a candidate for hyperbaric oxygen therapy, if you:

  • Have an ulcer or non-healing wound in the area that was irradiated.
  • Are having surgery to replace an infected breast implant or tissue expander in the breast that was irradiated
  • Require further reconstructive surgery in the area that was irradiated.

Hyperbaric oxygen is time sensitive, as you may want to start it BEFORE your surgery.

Ask your doctor for a hyperbaric medicine consultation to see if you would benefit from this treatment.

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Meet Mindy-Stage 2 Emotional Contributor

“Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) can be such a game changer for those of us in the cancer community who have or will undergo radiation! Empower yourself by knowing your options and learning more about this highly effective intervention for wound healing!”


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Program Medical Director for Hyperbaric Medicine and Chronic Wound Care at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland, OR

He graduated Princeton University with a degree in Chemistry. He attended medical school at Tulane University School of Medicine where he also obtained a Masters Degree in Public Health and Tropical Medicine. He completed a residency in Emergency Medicine at the University of California, Irvine and went on to complete a fellowship in Undersea and Hyperbaric Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. 

This page is sponsored by CūtisCare and HyperbaricAware.com in partnership with the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society, providing an educational resource for patients and physicians to learn more about hyperbaric oxygen therapy, the indications, and patient selection criteria for treatment. We invite you and your physician to explore the site to learn more about this life-changing therapy.

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