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MEDICAL FAQs

KLJ Diver Travel
Dive Medical questions & answers for common scuba diving conditions and illness provided in conjunction with the doctors at the London Diving Chamber and Midlands Diving Chamber.
All Categories » Cancer » Radiotherapy

QUESTION

I am wondering if you can give me an opinion on whether I can dive again please. I had a malignant tumour in my right breast which was removed last year. At the beginning of this year I underwent radiotherapy and additionally I was prescribed Tamoxifen. I am worried whether my lung tissue was damaged by the radiation and if I am able to dive again. I feel healthy now and have started exercising again. I used to be quiet fit and sporty. I never smoked. The only other major health problem I ever had was a prolapsed disc many years ago, which caused no more problems since an operation 4 years ago. I am now 47 years old. I started diving in 2000 and have since performed a little more than 400 dives. I am qualified as an SSI divemaster with nitrox and rebreather specialities, but I am not planning to be involved in teaching. I would like to do a few dives in the English waters every now and then (neither deep nor especially long) and spend a relaxed holiday in Egypt in autumn. I would be grateful for any advice you can give.

ANSWER

This is always a tricky one as there is no definitive “yes” or “no” answer. The reason for this is that radiotherapy (and chemotherapy) is highly targeted to the tumour in question, so one patient’s treatment is invariably different to the next – the best recipe changes depending on the tumour type, how advanced it is, whether it has spread etc. Generally speaking, both chemo- and radiotherapy can induce scarring of the lung tissue and render a diver more susceptible to pulmonary barotrauma, embolism and pneumothorax. So you would need to have some investigations to assess these risks, usually involving a CT scan of your lungs together with lung function tests, before diving again. That said, the odd shallow UK dive and some relaxed drifting about in Egypt should be well within achievable realms, and would probably be just the ticket after what sounds like a pretty traumatic year.

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