Sometimes the treatment cancer patients need to survive can lead to painful side effects. For colorectal cancer survivor Jeanette Inserni, the radiation treatment that helped save her life also led to years of suffering from radiation burns. Inserni was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2006. After surgery, she received chemotherapy through an infusion pump while simultaneously undergoing radiation.
Eleven days into treatment, she was hospitalized for radiation burns on her colon. The burns were so severe doctors told her she would likely never be able to eat a normal diet. “I didn’t believe it back then,” she says.
After her hospitalization, she had 32 additional radiation treatments to remove the cancer. Two years later, she continued to suffer from the burns and had additional surgery. “I thought everything would be all right, but then I kept having more problems,” she says.
In 2012, she was diagnosed with radiation-induced colitis. Because there is no treatment for this type of colitis, her physician, Ronald Devine, M.D., told her that hyperbaric therapy might help.
In hyperbaric therapy, patients breathe oxygen while enclosed in a pressurized chamber at two to three times greater than normal atmospheric pressure.
While breathing pure oxygen, the patient’s blood plasma becomes saturated, carrying 15 to 20 times the normal amount of oxygen to the body’s tissue, speeding healing through:
- The promotion of new blood vessels
- Decreases in swelling and inflammation
- Deactivation of bacterial toxins
- Increases in the body’s ability to fight infection
- Improvement in the rate of healing
A week or two after I started the treatment, the colitis went away,” she says. “It was incredible.” Inserni went through 60 hyperbaric chamber treatments and has seen improvement. “I’m still burned, but I can handle the symptoms better,” she says. “I can feel a change in my body.”
While she still has symptoms, Inserni describes the hyperbaric chamber treatments as “a little piece of heaven.”
“While in the chamber, I felt so well – all of my symptoms were gone,” she says. “While you’re inside the chamber, you don’t feel anything. You feel like a normal person. You feel like dancing.”
In fact, Inserni felt so good after her first treatment, she danced for two hours when she got home. “I was so happy,” she says. “My body was feeling like normal again.”