For patients suffering from the tissue scarring and stiffening caused by radiation fibrosis, effective treatment is often hard to find, but there are options. The use of massage, particularly techniques targeted at helping the drainage of lymphatic fluid, can provide relief and may even help minimize damage if started early on. Stretching exercises can also help relax the scar tissue and improve its flexibility. Pentoxifylline, a drug that improves circulation, in combination with tocopherol, or vitamin E, is another common form of therapy for radiation fibrosis that is effective for some patients. Other potential therapies include acupuncture, low-dose interferon gamma, and botulinum toxin injections.
Massage is often used to try and minimize the effects of radiation fibrosis. It is particularly effective when the techniques used are aimed at stimulating the lymphatic system and helping fluid drain. This type of treatment usually works best when scarring has occurred in the body’s extremities, and may be especially helpful if done early in the onset of the condition to help avoid some of its effects.
Another option for radiation fibrosis treatment is stretching and other exercises to help ease the tightness of affected areas. These exercises can bring back flexibility and restore some of the range of motion that may have been lost when the scarring developed. Since different patients may have different degrees of fibrosis and in different areas of the body, it is probably a good idea to seek the advice of a physical therapist to find the best exercises.
Medication may also be used to improve radiation fibrosis. The most common option is taking pentoxifylline and tocopherol together. Pentoxifylline works by increasing blood flow, particularly to the capillaries in the extremities. Tocopherol, another name for vitamin E, is a powerful antioxidant that may help to minimize free radical damage to tissue. Used in combination, these two drugs may provide some improvement for patients.
Radiation fibrosis is a very difficult condition to treat, and not all treatments work for every patient, so doctors and patients have had to explore alternatives. The use of acupuncture may help reduce the pain and discomfort of the condition, as well as simply promoting overall health and relaxation. Low-dose interferon gamma may reduce the amount of scarring to affected tissue and improve lymph drainage. Injections of botulinum toxin to scarred areas have been found to improve flexibility.