Harrisburg woman undergoes treatment for wound that wouldn’t heal after breast cancer treatment


HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — A local woman is sharing her experience with a therapy to treat a wound that would not heal after breast cancer treatment.

According to the National Institutes of Health, chronic wounds, or wounds that are slow to heal currently affect 6.5 million Americans. Nancy Michaelian didn’t want to be part of that statistic, so she underwent something known as hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

“I love the idea of butterfly and the idea of transformation, though I hate the change,” Michaelian said.

But as Michaelian knows all too well, change can be difficult.

“It had returned and it had spread. So it was considered stage four because there was a lymph node on the other side,” Michaelian said.

Michaelian has had breast cancer twice and had a bilateral mastectomy at UPMC Harrisburg. An incision didn’t heal properly, because of previous radiation therapy.

“A small percentage of people, that inflammation doesn’t turn off and the normal healing process is when the radiation treatment is completed don’t take over, so there’s ongoing damage to the tissues,” Dr. John Paul Rogers, Medical Director, UPMC Wound Center said.

That’s where hyperbaric oxygen therapy came in. Not a new treatment, but one that researchers have been fine-tuning recently. The intensely high pressured system floods the body’s tissues with oxygen.

“That extra oxygen usually translates into better healing or healing of tissues that are poorly oxygenated due to a loss of blood supply in this case. It also stimulates stem cell release from the bone marrow,” Dr. Rogers said.

For Michaelian, after six weeks of treatment, she was healed. As with any medical treatment, there can be side effects, but Michaelian said she had none, and she kept her sense of humor through it all.

“And I tease my children, that I don’t have boobs anymore so I’m going to get a tattoo across the front and I’m going to go to the beach topless, and they all get very upset. It’s so much fun,” Michaelian said.

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