Internet Laryngectomee Support
February 2001

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
by Jack Henshaw

    Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a medical treatment in which the patient breathes 100% oxygen while inside a chamber under pressure.  The air we normally breathe is only 21% oxygen and 79% nitrogen, and is at a pressure of 14.7 pounds per square inch (psi).  In hyperbaric treatments, the pressure is typically increased to 2.4 times normal (may be up to 6 times), and the patient breathes 100% oxygen through a clear hood or mask while laying or sitting in a pressurized chamber.  The pressure is the same as that experienced by a scuba diver 45 feet under water, and is why they refer to the treatment as a “dive”. 

     In the case of the standard wound care treatment dive, the patient receives 11 times more oxygen than is normally carried to all parts of the body by the blood.  This also explains why simply placing a wounded area in an oxygen "tent" cannot be effective.  The oxygen must be delivered to all parts of the body by the blood stream. 

    Oxygen delivered under pressure actually dissolves in the blood stream and is carried in solution like the fizz in a capped soda bottle.  This is much different from the normal method of carrying oxygen in which our red blood cells transport the oxygen.  While small blockages may prevent the red cells from delivering oxygen to damaged tissues, oxygen dissolved in the bloodstream or our tissue fluids can reach our damaged areas and help speed the healing process. 

    When properly applied, hyperbaric oxygen effectively helps to promote healing and decrease infection.  It has been shown to increase blood flow to injured tissue, reduce swelling, cause new blood vessels to form, speed wound healing, encourage new bone formation, help fight infection, and reduce the effects of toxic substances such as carbon monoxide poisoning.

    Treatment outcomes range from complete resolution of the medical problem, to no change, and everything in between.  In about 80% of the cases significant improvement or complete resolution of the problem is seen.  This means that some patients will not respond to hyperbaric oxygen therapy.  Since it can be very difficult to predict exactly who those patients might be, some treatments may be started when the outcome is not certain.

    Hyperbaric treatments themselves are painless, but do take time, and are pretty boring.  We were told to bring something to do during our treatment such as reading or a small handicraft to help pass the time.  Each dive takes approximately two and a half hours, plus time to change clothes. 

    At the beginning and the end of our treatment, we felt a mild pressure in our ears while the chamber was being pressurized, and later returning to sea level pressure.  Their personnel worked with us so that we became familiar with an effective way to equalize this pressure.  The sensation is the same as we experience when flying in an airplane or driving up a mountain.  If we can easily clear our ears under these circumstances, we should not have any difficulty in the chamber. 

    After dressing in our chamber clothes, a rubber neck ring was applied which fits like turtleneck, and we all took a seat in the chamber.  We were required to remain in our assigned seats during the dive so the inside chamber attendant could monitor our progress.  Once the door was closed, a safety checklist was completed and the dive began. 

    I noticed the mild sensation of pressure in the ears, and the temperature rose as the air was compressed.  The was a noticeable rushing of air as the dive progressed.  If we experienced any difficulty cleaning our ears, had sinus pain, nausea, or other problems, we were to notify the inside attendant by raising our hand.  He/she would then request the chamber operator to stop the pressurization, and would show us several methods to help us clear the problem. 

    Although the chamber was air conditioned, during the seven minute pressurization the air temperature typically reached 89 - 90 degrees at 87% humidity.  This rapidly returned to normal once the treatment depth of 45 feet was reached.  Because the oxygen we are breathing is a dry gas, we would find ourselves drying out.  Drinking extra fluids was suggested, and liquids were always available in the chamber.

    Except for those with mild carbon monoxide poisoning or uncomplicated decompression sickness, most diagnoses require between 20 and 40 treatment dives to gain the maximum benefit, and we may not see any obvious changes for up to three weeks.

    I was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma at Bay Pines Veterans Administration Medical Center in 1967.  A two inch lump was removed from the left side of my neck.  Between August and October of 1998, I underwent radiation therapy at Long Beach VAMC.  I developed osteoradionecrosis from my radiation therapy in 1998 and have since been struggling to recover with different variations of therapies.  One of these has been hyperbaric oxygen treatments. 

    After my 20th dive (treatment) all of the pain in my nerves in the fingers and toes disappeared.  While I have only seen minimal improvement in the osteoradionecrosis, there appears to be a light at the end of all this.   I believe these treatments have greatly improved my health and I am prepared to continue on with them until I see some improvements in my face and neck.  I wrote this article based in part on questions submitted to Dr. Wydell Williams who is the Chief of the Hyperbaric Unit in Las Vegas, Nevada.

(Jack can be reached at

Special Tobacco Education Section

Youth Tobacco Education Program Flops

     The results are in from a 15 year study on the effects of a smoking prevention program which began for students in the third, and continued through the tenth grade for more than 8,000 students in Washington State.   The program was part of the school curriculum and it focused on helping young people resist the social influences to smoke.  The research was reported in the December 20, 2000 issue of The Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

    The emphasis used in the program is called the “social-influences” approach and it focused on helping young people to identify and resist the social influences to smoke from peer pressure and advertising, and training students to resist those pressures.  Supplementary materials available at the high school level included encouragement and support for stopping smoking, and poster and school newspaper anti-smoking advertisements. 

    Unfortunately, the research indicated that the program had no measurable effect on the percentage of students who took up smoking and continued to smoke for the four years it followed them past the tenth grade.  Approximately 25% of students smoked whether they were part of the group of students given the carefully designed anti-smoking curriculum, or part of the control group.  Even more disheartening is that at two years past high school an additional 4% of both groups of students had taken up the smoking habit.

    The research cost 15 million dollars and was carried out by the Hutchison Cancer Research Center in Seattle under an NCI grant.

    According to Richard Klausner, M.D., Director of the NCI, "Although the study demonstrated that this approach alone had no effect, it provides a valuable contribution to our knowledge about youth smoking behavior.  Carefully conducted studies such as this one help us to understand what works and what does not in preventing youth smoking.”

    Other smoking prevention programs in a number of states including Massachusetts, Oregon, California, and Florida have shown much better results.  The NCI currently has 50 other research programs aimed at preventing tobacco use among children which may help point the way to more successful approaches.

Former Head of Lorillard Tobacco Company Dies

    Alexander Spears, IIII, former head of the Lorillard Tobacco Company, died on January 29th of lung cancer.  Spears smoked regularly from age 18 until he had a heart attack in 1977.  He was 68.  His father, also a heavy smoker, died of lung cancer in the early 1960s.

    Spears was one of the seven tobacco CEOs who swore in testimony before Congress in 1994 that nicotine was not addictive.  Documents later uncovered made it clear that he had lied, the company not only knew nicotine was additive but had sought to increase the nicotine delivered by their cigarettes, and had specifically marketed cigarettes to teens.

California Program Reduces Cancer

    Cigarette smoking in California declined more than twice the national average in the decade since 1988.  The rate of lung cancer has gone down correspondingly, according to a December report by the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta. Lung and throat cancers in the State declined by 14%, while rates in other parts of the country only declined 2.7%.

    California’s comprehensive tobacco control program emphasizes an approach which combines prevention, education, and changing the social acceptability of smoking. Similar programs has been implemented in Arizona, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, and Oregon.

    "If we applied the knowledge that we have about tobacco control, we could save tens of thousands of lives in this country, CDC's Dr. Pechacek added.  "People are dying unnecessarily of a very cruel disease--and the cure is known."

Chuck Howe

    WebWhispers member Chuck Howe lost his battle to cancer in January after suffering a recurrence in December and an adverse reaction to chemotherapy.  Chuck lived in Woodward, Iowa.  He became the mayor of his town in January, 2000 after becoming a laryngectomee.  Chuck was a veterinarian.  An article about Chuck appeared on in the January 2000 edition of the Journal and can be seen at :
WW January 2000 Newsletter

Donate a Mammogram at No Cost to You

    A variety of corporate sponsors will donate the cost of a mammogram to a woman who could otherwise not afford it if we visit their website.  Just click on a button, and the donation is made.

The Breast Cancer Site : 

Serious Question

    A few months ago a serious question was asked of the laryngectomee members of WebWhispers.  The question came from Stan Hesley and it asked, “I am wondering how long it takes to accept that you are a laryngectomee?” 

    For fun, it was later turned into a statement which members were asked to add something. The statement was, “You know you are a well recovered laryngectomee when...” 

you finally decide excessive mucus is rarely fatal.

your family stops picking up the phone to dial 911 every time you cough.

you stop reading the obituaries and thinking about how you would like
  yours to read.

you know a Servox is not a body part.

you know what the initials ENT, SLP, TEP, ACS, IAL, and AL stand for.

your nightmares now involve dead batteries.

when the phone rings you no longer panic, but pick it up and say “ello”.

an unexpected sneeze happens and you find your hand has already
  blocked it before your brain told you the sneeze was coming.

you no longer stop to smell the roses, but stop to admire them anyway.

the person on the treadmill next to you sees you running with your
    mouth closed and can't figure out how you are doing it, and you just 
    nod and smile.

you know the difference between “laryngectomy and laryngectomee,”
  and can spell them correctly most of the time.

you have to explain some new laryngectomee product to your ENT.

you use the TEP and keep forgetting to bring your Servox backup with

You like to answer telemarketer phone calls just so you can "mess" with
   them with your Servox.

you no longer dream in your old voice.

you discover you can't spit.

you finally stop talking with your mouth full just as your mother always
   told you.

the cat runs away when you try to sing along with the radio.

when you talk in your sleep you run down your battery.

(Thanks to Forrest Burnette, Vicki Eorio, Bob Herbst, Marie Sherwood, and Steve Verngren who contributed ideas.)

Welcome New Members 

    We welcome the 12 new members who joined us in January:

Lin Bryant - Caregiver
Orem, UT 
George Cote
Bennington, NH
Jeff Fugler
Kenner, LA
Doris Gifford
Renton, WA
Dale & Carole Keast
Yerington, NV 
Dan H. Kelly - SLP
Cincinnati, OH
Carol McCaskill
LaPine, OR
Lynne Meyer
Sterling, IL
Kristin Morrone - SLP
Salisbury, MD
Judy Salvador - Caregiver
Coquitlam B.C Canada
Ichiro Takemoto
Osaka, Japan
John & Mary Watson
Hayling Island, Hamp., UK

As a charitable organization, as described in IRS § 501(c)(3), the
WebWhispers Nu-Voice Club
is eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions
 in accordance with IRS § 170.

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