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Breast Cancer and Lymphoedema

Breast Cancer and Lymphoedema

Early diagnosis and conventional treatments as well as prophylactic hyperbaric oxygen therapy now allow better survival odds and longer life expectancy for women with breast cancer.

It is well established that tumor does not grow and metastasize in well oxygenated tissues. Therefore the advanced cancer treatment approach uses adjunctive hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) in combination with conventional cancer therapies such as radiation, chemo therapy and surgery. Radiation is only partly (about one third!) successful in poor oxygenated tissue, therefore adding oxygen component makes cancer weaker, body stronger and radiation more successful. This combined approach would also yield less radiation damage, a usual reason for oncologists prescribing hyperbaric oxygen therapy in cancer patients.

Approximately one-third of women who have had surgery (lumpectomy) and radiation treatment for breast cancer develop complications such as painful swelling of the arms and hands (lymphoedema) that can lead to disability. 
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is used to restore tissue oxygen levels, reduce swelling, promoting the microcirculation in blood and lymphatic systems and in turn improve healing of radiation wounds, control infectionreduce pain as well as boost the immune system and increase stem cells in circulation.

The mobilization of stem cells by hyperbaric oxygen shows promising results for cancer patients. In 2005 Dr. Stephen Thom showed that one 90 minute hyperbaric oxygen sessions in oxygen flow chambers doubles the number of stem cells in the blood and 20 sessions increase the number to nine fold.

First controlled clinical studies in Germany found that in 32 out of 44 women who received surgery and radiation for breast cancer with lymphoedema showed improvement with hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Significant reduction in pain and in average of 25% but as much as 40% of swelling can be reduced with timely hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

Medical coverage for hyperbaric oxygen therapy in Canada follows the recommendation of the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society (UHMS) which approves the hyperbaric oxygen use in post-radiation injury.

Hyperbaric oxygen improves the success of radiation and chemotherapy as well as minimizes complications.
Research shows that people with tissue cells deprived of oxygen had worse survival and more metastases than those who had higher oxygen levels in their tumors.


Further reading:
  1. Feldmeier JJ, Lange JD, Cox SD, Chou LJ, Ciaravino V.: Hyperbaric oxygen as prophylaxis or treatment for radiation myelitis; Undersea Hyperb Med.1993 Sep;20(3):249-55
  2. Prtichard J, Anand P, Broom J, Davis C, Gothard L, Hall E, Maher J, McKinna F, Millington J, Misra VP, Pitkin A, Yarnold JR.: Double-blind randomized phase II study of hyperbaric oxygen in patients with radiation-induced brachial plexopathy; Radiother Oncol. 2001 Mar;58(3):279-86.
  3. Gothard L,  Stanton A, MacLaren J, Lawrence D, Hall E, Mortimer P, parkin E, Prtichard J, Risdall J, Sawyer R, Woods M, Yarnold J.: Non-randomised phase II trial of hyperbaric oxygen therapy in patients with chronic arm lymphoedema and tissue fibrosis after radiotherapy for early breast cancer; Radiother Oncol. 2004 Mar;70(3):217-24.
  4. Davis JC, Hunt TK (Eds). The Role Of Oxygen. New York: Elsevier, P232,1988.
  5. Carl UM, Feldmeier JJ, Schmitt G, Hartmann KA: Hyperbaric oxygen therapy for late sequelae in women receiving radiation after breast-conserving surgery,
  6. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys Mar 15, 49:1029-31, 2001.
  7. Hartmann KA, Carl UM, Sminia P, Lammering G, Becker KA, Schmitt GThe influence of inspiratory hyperoxia on ischemia-reperfusion-induced tumour growth delay; Oncol Rep 2000 Jan-Feb, 7:131-3
  8. Ashamalla, Hani; Hardy, Kevin; Goldwein, Joel; Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for Radiation Necrosis; 2001
  9. Plafki C, Carl UM, Glag M, Hartmann KA: The treatment of late radiation effects with hyperbaric oxygenation (HBO);Strahlenther Onkol 1998 Nov, 174 Suppl 3:66-8
  10. Hartmann A, Almeling M, Carl UM: Hyperbaric oxygenation (HBO) in the treatment of radiogenic side effectsStrahlenther Onkol 1996 Dec, 172:641-8
  11. Milovanova TN, Bhopale VM, Sorokina EM, Moore JS, Hunt TK, Hauer-Jensen M, Velazquez OC, Thom SR., Hyperbaric oxygen stimulates vasculogenic stem cell growth and differentiation in vivo., J Appl Physiol. Feb;106(2):711-28,2009.
  12. Thom SR, Bhopale VM, Velazquez OC, Goldstein LJ, Thom LH, Buerk DG: Stem cell mobilization by hyperbaric oxygenAm J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. Apr;290(4):H1378-86, 2006.
  13. Mayer R, Hamilton-Farrell MR, van der Kleij AJ, Schmutz J, Granström G, Sicko Z, Melamed Y, Carl UM, Hartmann KA, Jansen EC, Ditri L, Sminia P:Hyperbaric oxygen and radiotherapy.: Strahlenther Onkol. Feb;181(2):113-23. Review, 2005. Hyperbaric oxygen and Radiotherapy COST Action. 
  14. Teas J, Cunningham JE, Cone L, Jansen K, Raghavan SK, Nitcheva DK, Xie D, Butler WM; Can hyperbaric oxygen therapy reduce breast cancer related- treatment lymphedema? A Pilot Study. J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2004 Nov;13(9):1008-18

Severe ulcerative breast cancer

Nancy P, Tofino BC

"I will always be grateful to BaroMedical for taking me on as a client.

I had an ulcerating breast tumour with severe MRSA infection and had almost bled to death on numerous occasions. Thanks to the hyperbaric treatments my breast tumour is shrinking, the bleeding has stopped and the infection is all but gone.

Not many clinics would have agreed to help me in the severe condition that I was in.

My sincerest thanks to everyone at BaroMedical for their help."

Testimonial linkRadiotherapy 
by Elzbieta S.
Burnaby, BC

"I have found it [hyperbaric oxygen therapy, ed.] to be very beneficial treatment, so supportive for me during my radiation therapy, connected with an invasive breast cancer.

My one hour hyperbaric treatments were following radiation sessions and definitely helped me to avoid side effects of radiation.

Firstly, I didn’t feel so tired and burned out.  Secondly, I didn’t develop any burns on my skin.

I will recommend hyperbaric treatments to all cancer patients. I believe also that in a long run these treatments saved me from possible cancer caused by radiation itself.

Thank you so much for wonderful care."


Surgical recovery
by Sherry H. -
Trail, BC

"I do not regret having spent the money on health care that I  firmly believe helped me both physically and mentally.  The physical aspect being confirmed by my surgeon.  The mental being that I came out of a terrible state of depression.  I also believe timing was important and the decision to go private was due to how quickly I could get in.  It is also my belief that in a hospital I would have been treated well but not nearly as well as how I was treated at your private clinic.  " (#0567-1008)

Proudly serving Metro Vancouver and British Columbians with hyperbaric oxygen services and wound care since 1999

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7850 Sixth Street - Burnaby V3N 3N3 - British Columbia - Vancouver - CANADA - Ph: 604-777-7055

 Information contained on this site is intended for general consumer understanding and education. It should not be used as a substitute for any medical professional opinion, advice or prescribed medication nor should it serve as diagnosis or treatment of health problems.