We are delighted to have recently funded a three-year pilot project costing £283,521, that involves setting up a brand new service to help former cancer patients left with debilitating long-term side-effects following radical, intensive radiotherapy treatment to the pelvic area.
The nurse-led service, which will be supported by gastroenterology, urology and gynaecology consultants, will work with patients diagnosed with Pelvic Radiation Disease (PRD) following their treatment.
Radiation therapy (radiotherapy) effectively uses high-energy rays to destroy cancer cells. It is used as a curative treatment either alone or in tandem with other forms of treatments in a number of cancers such as cervical, womb and other gynaecological cancers, prostate cancer, or bowel and bladder cancers, which all involve radiotherapy to the pelvic area.
Sometimes, healthy cells near to the cancer can become damaged through this intensive treatment, and this can lead to a variety of side-effects – symptoms of PRD – as the body heals at the end of treatment. In severe cases, these side effects can include constipation, bloating, cramps, bleeding, incontinence, erectile dysfunction, or general swelling and aching around the pelvis, lower back and legs.
Advanced specialist practitioner in the late effects of pelvic radiation Liz Walne, who is leading on the project, explained: “While radiotherapy is becoming increasingly effective as a treatment, for some patients, being cured of cancer can come at a sacrifice to their quality of life.
“For too long, both patients and clinicians have accepted the symptoms of PRD as a trade-off. As a result, symptoms are under reported, not properly assessed and mismanaged.”
Liz continued: “Through our pilot specialist service, our aim is to identify and treat PRD to resolve or improve symptoms and thereby improve quality of life. We want the project to provide a foundation on which to develop a business case for permanent funding for the service, including all relevant trusts, once a better understanding of it is achieved.”
All radiotherapy treatment for the whole of Lancashire and South Cumbria is undertaken at Rosemere Cancer Centre, the region’s specialist cancer treatment centre at the Royal Preston Hospital – this is where the new service will be based.
Latest figures show that annually, approximately 550 prostate cancer patients receive radical pelvic radiotherapy along with 121 gynaecology patients, 127 bowel cancer patients and 44 bladder cancer patients. It is estimated that around half of these 857 patients will develop post-treatment PRD to an extent that affects their quality of life in some way. The service will not only benefit these people, but will help patients suffering with PRD following treatment they may have had many years ago.