As folks will probably know our blood oxygen levels are measured out of 100 and they should be 98, 99, or 100. You can get a meter to read it for under £10 and it seems quite often people who are chronically ill have lower readings.
Chris Woollams in his article highlights a 2012 meta-review by two researchers from Bergen, Norway: Ingrid Moen and Linda Stuhr. They analyzed nearly 90 studies since 2006 to see if there was truth in the claim that HBO could spread cancer. They found none. In fact they found that it could weaken the hypoxic pocket that defends cancer tumors from oxygen.
In mice studies it seems that HBO in conjunction with diet is important. The research showed benefits with the ketogenic diet and Chris hypothesises that a Rainbow Diet (see here) would also work(iii). On its own HBO doesn’t seem to have a significant impact on cancer but with radiotherapy or chemo, it produces better results and less side-effects.
There are some cancer centres that I have read about in Germany that use Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy to treat cancer, sometimes on its own but more usually in conjunction with other treatments. It appears they have good results and certainly HBO is used widely for a variety of other illnesses to help the body heal. There is also evidence that HBO may help people with lymphoedema after breast cancer and lymph nodule surgery.
Cancer and Radiotherapy
Research has known that oxygen pre-sensitises cancer cells so that more are killed by the action of radiotherapy. This is no doubt why exercise can be such an important part of healing and in particular with treatments like radiotherapy. Research at the Kansas State Medical School has shown that exercise before and during radiotherapy makes the treatment more successful (you can see my previous blogs on exercise here). I imagine that there are also a host of breathing techniques like Wim Hoff that maximise oxygen could also be helpful; that’s perhaps another blog.
There are also several studies for HBO showing it can help minimise side-effects of radiotherapy and chemo, and even restore healthy tissue by promoting healing. It was found that patients using chemo, who follow a program of 3 sessions a week for 6 weeks, boost their blood oxygen levels to 100% and significantly reduce side effects. They suggest that the same programme is true for radiotherapy, but that it can go on for up to a year after the finish of radiotherapy.
It makes sense that HBO would help; blood vessels maybe restricted and face scarring depending on a patients sensitivity to radiotherapy.This can lead to inadequate blood supply and result in long-term side effects including death or damage to soft tissues or bones (necrosis, radionecrosis or osteoradionecrosis), poor wound healing and infections. I’ve read that as many as 10 to 15 percent of patients receiving the higher doses of radiotherapy will experience these late side effects from radiotherapy, which may be delayed for several months or years after treatment has ended. Indeed I know of three people with prostate cancer who, more than 18 months after their radiotherapy treatment, are experiencing minor bleeding from the bum.
So HBO can reduce side effects but also treat long-term damage from radiation therapy. HBO increases oxygen in the blood and helps patients by stimulating growth of new blood vessels following radiation-induced damage.
In the States these studies have been ignored or are perhaps seen as a threat to treatment protocols, as they have now labelled oxygen a drug. So while it can be used for some illnesses like anaemia, gangrene, skin grafts or burns it cannot be used to treat cancer. This flies in the face of the research.
HBO or Ozone?
My previous blog on ozone is another example of how we can deliver oxygen to our bodies - and in particular to cancerous tissue in the hope of killing the cancer cells and restoring the tissue. There are some suggestions that ozone might be more effective than HBO at treating cancer but you can find arguments on the web for both views. There are also several different ways that ozone can be delivered so it makes comparison very difficult. Clearly they do slightly different things so I will be trying both as part of my programme nearer my time for radiotherapy.
What happens during HBO?
Well the film covers some of this but I want to reiterate you need permission from your doctor. This is particularly important as some conditions like lung cancer and heart disease are not usually suitable for HBO nor are folks on cancer drugs like doxorubicin, cisplatin or bleomycin.
In Gloucester there can be up to six or seven of us in the chamber but I usually catch the 8am session when there are often only two or three of us. Inside, the oxygen is administered at pressures up to 4 times normal atmospheric pressure. Treatment time is usually 60 minutes but you are often in for about 90 mins as it takes time to reach pressure and come back to normal pressure at the end.
I read or check work emails and have done meditations. It is usually too noisy to talk much with fellow 'divers'. The seats are comfortable but the mask can get a bit uncomfortable towards the end - and some folks experience ear popping as noted in the film. There is communication with the folks outside so at any time the dive can be stopped and pressure stabilised in ten or so minutes so that you can get out.
The centre is a Multiple Sclerosis Therapy Centres, an independent charity - there are about sixty of these around the country that you can find. They charge about £20 annual membership plus £15 a go; other centres charge slightly less or in some cases considerably more. The centre operates to sa standard approved by the Department of Health. There have been over 2 million hours of Oxygen Treatment carried out in the UK since the 1980's
The claim is that any condition resulting in inflammation in the body can benefit from oxygen treatment. It is the extra oxygen getting to the damaged areas that supports healing. It is said that 20 sessions can increase our own stem cells eightfold. Sounds good to me!
Find out more about Gloucester Hyperbaric Oxygen Chamber and their amazing team of volunteers:
Update 13/02/20: I like this overview of hyperbaric oxygen: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1114115/