Because chronic radiation injuries may not present symptoms until years after radiotherapy has ended, it is not unusual for a patient and primary care physician to initially miss the link and assume that an infection is causing pain. To help patients keep the possibility of chronic radiation injury in the back of their minds—just in case—Ruth Manzer, RN, OCN, UHS cancer nurse coordinator, makes sure that her oncology patients understand the big picture. “Part of my role is to reinforce what the patient learns from our providers in radiation oncology. They get so much information up front, it’s easy to forget about possible complications down the road,” she says. “So I help patients understand what’s happening today and also what might happen years from now.”
And Ms. Manzer stays with the patient long into survivorship. “If a patient is diagnosed with a radiation injury, I’m there for emotional support, but we also revisit what’s going on, and I make sure the patient understands that hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a solution—a very good solution,” she says.