Complications of Cervical Radiation
Treating Cervical Cancer
Although radiation therapy effectively treats cervical cancers by destroying the malignancy and stopping tumors from spreading, many patients will suffer from collateral damage due to radiation necrosis in the bladder or other areas near to the cervix.
Common short-term side effects of pelvic radiotherapy include:
- Diarrhea or nausea
- A burning sensation when urinating
- Frequent urination
- Sore skin
- Vaginal discharge and/or bleeding
Pelvic radiation disease (PRD) is a complex group of symptoms that affects many women who have had radiation therapy to treat cervical cancer. The disease can emerge long after radiation is over. Its symptoms range from mild to severe, and can impact the vagina, bladder, bowel and rectum.
PRD’s long term effects are thought to be caused by the body’s own healing process continuing after radiation treatments have ended. When the body attempts to heal, it creates an inflammatory response. Persistent inflammation can cause damage to the blood vessels, which impacts their ability to properly supply blood. This can lead to thickening or scarring (called fibrosis) in the organs and tissues making them less flexible and less able to function.
Radiation treatments can also cause:
- Hormonal changes – which may bring on early menopause
- Damage to the pelvic bones – causing hair-line fractures
- Damage to the lymph (fluid) channels within the pelvis – which can cause lymph fluids to back up and cause leg swelling
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) reverses vascular compromise (blood supply blockages) that can result from radiation treatment. Patients receive the treatment around two hours a day for five days a week. Our patients usually see improvement after 12 to 15 treatments, but having 40 treatments or more will produce the highest success rates.
In one long-term study published in BMC Urology in 2015, 15 patients with chemo or radiation-induced hemorrhagic cysts resulting in pain, irritation and blood in the urine, received an average of 34 HBOT treatments. After a 68-month follow-up, 80% of the patients experienced a complete resolution of their symptoms.
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