ROCKINGHAM – About one in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime, and the National Cancer Institute estimates that nearly half of male cancer survivors in the U.S. are prostate cancer survivors.
Leslie J. Salloum, M.D.
Years after beating prostate cancer, some men will experience a hidden complication caused by the radiation having affected healthy tissue while combating the cancer. Health care experts at the FirstHealth Richmond Memorial Hospital Wound Care & Hyperbaric Center are drawing attention to chronic radiation proctitis and its treatment.
“Patients may experience soft tissue radiation injuries up to 20 years following radiation treatment to the pelvic region,” says Leslie J. Salloum, M.D., general surgeon and medical director of the Richmond Memorial Hospital program.
Symptoms of chronic radiation proctitis may include rectal bleeding, diarrhea, abdominal pain and an uncomfortable feeling of needing to pass stools even though the bowels are empty.
Richmond Memorial’s Wound Care & Hyperbaric Center offers hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBO) to treat the condition. Studies have found that the use of HBO to treat radiation proctitis is likely to be beneficial in most cases and improves quality of life.
Patients undergoing the treatment at Richmond Memorial relax on a bed incased in a large see-through shell called a hyperbaric oxygen chamber. During the completely noninvasive therapy, they are surrounded by 100 percent oxygen at higher-than-normal pressure.
HBO addresses the lack of oxygen in the cells caused by radiation damage by increasing the amount of oxygen within the tissues to aid recovery. The pressure in the chamber reduces the size of the oxygen molecules allowing them to pass through the plasma to the body more easily.
As on a plane, the only sensation patients experience is a slight pressure in the ears as the pressure changes.
Televisions mounted above the chambers play movies to entertain patients during the treatments that typically last 90 minutes. As with underwater hyperbaric pressure, treatments are called dives and, in most instances, are covered by Medicare, Medicaid and the majority of insurance plans.
For more information about HBO and radiation proctitis as well as other treatments for chronic wounds, contact FirstHealth Richmond Memorial Hospital Wound Care & Hyperbaric Center at (910) 417-3636.
FirstHealth Richmond Memorial Hospital is a division of FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital.