20 October 2021
Spacers are an effective technique to reduce the side effects of prostate radiotherapy. They protect the rectum during radiotherapy treatment by reducing the proximity of the rectum to the prostate gland. Studies1 have shown that patients experience fewer bowel-related, urinary and erectile dysfunction side effects as well as improved quality of life compared with those who don’t have a spacer inserted.
How do spacers work?
The spacer pushes the rectum away from the prostate. This creates a protective gap that helps prevent damage to the rectum. The cancer cells can be accurately targeted while healthy organs and tissue are protected, reducing many side effects.
How is the spacer inserted?
Insertions are available as a day case procedure, performed by urologists within Spire Harpenden Hospital and a number of our national hospitals located throughout the UK. Consultant Urologists Mr James Michael Adshead and Miss Charlotte Foley provide this service at Spire Harpenden Hospital.
Your urologist will use a needle to insert the spacer between the prostate and the rectum. It's a minimally invasive procedure that takes around 30 minutes. The biodegradable spacer stays in position during your radiotherapy treatment cycle.
Video courtesy of GenesisCare
What happens afterwards?
The absorbable spacer is injected during a simple one-off procedure and is gradually absorbed and eliminated naturally from the body through the urine.
Most people recover quickly from the procedure without suffering any side effects. The consultant will talk through all the benefits and risks.
Are spacers for prostate cancer safe?
Spacers have been shown in clinical studies to be safe and effective, and they are approved by National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE). With the spacer in place, your consultant can target your cancer while reducing the risks of side effects compared to having radiotherapy without the spacer.
You may notice some temporary discomfort at the injection site and feel full in the back passage. Both these feelings normally pass quickly. There's also a very small risk of infection that can be treated with antibiotics if required.
1 Prada PJ, Fernández J, Martinez AA, et al. Transperineal injection of hyaluronic acid in anterior perirectal fat to decrease rectal toxicity from radiation delivered with intensity modulated brachytherapy or EBRT for prostate cancer patients. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2007;69(1):95-102.