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Former cancer patients to be helped with debilitating side effects of radiotherapy thanks to new Preston service

Posted on - 11th February, 2020 - 7:00am | Author - | Posted in - Charities, Fulwood, Health, Preston News, Sharoe Green
Liz Walne
Advanced specialist practitioner in the late effects of pelvic radiation Liz Walne, who is helping to bring a Rosemere Cancer Foundation funded PRD service to RPH for the first time in its history

A brand new service at Royal Preston Hospital is being set up to help former cancer patients living with debilitating side effects following radiotherapy treatment to the pelvic area.

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Rosemere Cancer Foundation is funding a three-year pilot project costing £283,521, which involves setting up the service.

The nurse-led service, which will be supported by gastroenterology, urology and gynaecology consultants, will work with patients diagnosed with Pelvic Radiation Disease (PRD).

In severe cases of PRD, symptoms include incontinence and issues affecting the bowels such as diarrhoea, constipation, bleeding from the bottom, excessive wind, bloating and tummy cramps.

Depending on the cancer treated, PRD symptoms can also include vaginal bleeding, blood in urine, painful intercourse and erectile dysfunction, as well as aching around the pelvis and lower back and swelling in the legs.

All radiotherapy treatment for Lancashire and South Cumbria is undertaken at Rosemere Cancer Centre, the region’s specialist cancer treatment centre at RPH.

Inside a radiotherapy treatment room at Rosemere Cancer Centre
Inside a radiotherapy treatment room at Rosemere Cancer Centre

Latest figures show that each year around 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 half of these 857 patients will develop post-treatment PRD to an extent that it affects their quality of life.

The new service aims to help not only them but patients suffering with PRD following treatment that may have been many years ago.

Advanced specialist practitioner in the late effects of pelvic radiation Liz Walne, who is leading on the project, said: “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.

“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.”

Dan Hill, Rosemere Cancer Foundation’s chief officer, said: “We are proud to support such an important pilot project that is raising awareness of and seeking to treat PRD, a condition that causes much suffering but is often hidden by patients themselves, who are just grateful to be cancer-free.”

How is PRD caused?

Radiation therapy (radiotherapy) 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. Among these cancers are cervical, womb and other gynaecological cancers, prostate cancer, bowel and bladder cancers, which all involve radiotherapy to the lower part of the tummy between the hips – the pelvic area.

Sometimes the healthy cells near to the cancer can become damaged and this can lead to a variety of side effects – symptoms of PRD – as the body heals at the end of treatment.

Read more: Rosemere’s Walk in the Dark returns to Preston for 12th year

What do you think of the new service? Do you suffer from PRD? Let us know in the comments.

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