An oxygen therapy which is normally provided to injured sportsmen and divers is being advocated for cancer patients suffering side effects of radiotherapy. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy, which is used to tackle decompression sickness in divers, and to help injured elite footballers heal more quickly, involves sitting in a sealed chamber and breathing pure oxygen while the air pressure is slowly increased.
Patients given radiotherapy for pelvic cancer - including that of the cervix, ovary, prostate, rectum, bladder and uterus - are left with diarrhoea, stomach cramps and frequent bowel movements, reports The Daily Express.
Most patients return to normal within a few weeks of stopping radiotherapy treatment. But about 30 percent develop long-term problems that can interfere with their daily lives.
There is no existing cure and, as more people are treated for pelvic cancer, increasing numbers of patients are affected.
Now patients will take part in a trial to test if treatment using high-pressure oxygen therapy helps relieve their symptoms.
The HOT (hyperbaric oxygen therapy) II trial will take place at specialist centres in London, Cardiff, Chichester, Great Yarmouth, Hull, Plymouth and the Wirral and involve 75 patients.
"We hope to answer once and for all whether hyperbaric oxygen therapy will improve their quality of life."