Oxygenation for breast cancer patients – reducing the risk of failure in breast reconstruction

Surgery is a common treatment option for women with breast cancer. The surgery is to remove the cancerous tissue and the area close to it. There are many different ways of operating on breast cancer and the type of surgery will depend on the stage of the patient’s cancer. Surgery can range from breast-conserving surgery (removing part of the breast ) to a full mastectomy (removing the whole breast ). Many women also opt for breast reconstruction surgery which helps to restore the appearance of their breasts. Frequently for these surgeries, the patient is left with skin flaps and skin grafts to help close the wound. For skin grafts or flaps to survive and the wound to heal well a new blood supply needs to form from the underlying tissue to the grafted skin. One of the risks of these surgeries is that the skin flaps or grafts do not heal well due to ischaemia (insufficient supply of blood ) or necrosis (the tissue dying ).

Hyperbaric oxygenation is a known treatment for skin grafts and skin flaps. In situations where the skin graft or flap is compromised (is not healing well ), hyperbaric oxygen can encourage healing by bringing extra oxygen to the area. This extra oxygen can help the body build new blood vessels, heal damaged tissue and fight infection. In one Dutch study of patients that had undergone a mastectomy and went on to have flap ischemia, 58 per cent of patients that opted for hyperbaric oxygenation did not need corrective surgery.

Hyperbaric oxygenation is a globally recognized concurrent treatment for cancer patients. For patients recovering from a complicated surgery hyperbaric oxygenation can help reduce their recovery time, reduce the appearance of scar tissue, help with pain management, and improve their quality of life. Hyperbaric oxygenation is an effective intervention to limit necrosis and ischaemia after breast cancer surgery. Hyperbaric oxygenation is also used by many patients post-radiation treatment for radiation burns and to help revive radiated tissue. Hyperbaric oxygenation for compromised skin grafts and flaps is covered by some health insurance providers in Ireland.

It is important that patients are aware of all the treatment options and are able to give their full, valid, and informed consent to their treatment plans. The west of Ireland has a hyperbaric oxygenation unit in the University Hospital Galway and a private non-emergency chamber at OxyGeneration, Merchants Road, Galway. Contact OxyGeneration at 091 394444.

For clinical professionals see the following publications: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8084708/, https://sma.org/abstracts/hyperbaric-oxygen/, and https://ro-journal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13014-016-0700-0.


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