PROSTATE cancer patients can now have side effects of radiotherapy reduced, according to surgeon Tim Dudderidge.

A life-changing gel injection, known as SpaceOAR hydrogel, is now being used by Southampton clinicians, and reduces the amount of radiation that can pass through the prostate and damage the rectum during treatment.

It consists mainly of water and is injected before the start of radiotherapy.

The gel is then absorbed naturally by the body after around six months.

Radiotherapy is among the treatment options available for prostate cancer and involves targeting high-energy x-rays at the prostate which destroy cancer cells and prevent them from spreading.

However, as the radiation is not absorbed by the prostate, it means nearby healthy organs and tissue can be affected – which the hydrogel can prevent by protecting the surrounding area.

Studies have shown that the gel reduces side effects, such as rectal pain, bleeding and diarrhoea, by more than 70 percent.

Consultant urological surgeon at University Hospital Southampton (UHS), Tim Dudderidge, said: “This is great news for prostate cancer patients who now have the opportunity to undergo radiotherapy while minimising the risks of potential side effects.

“This is obviously a major concern for men who are due to undergo radiotherapy as part of their treatment, so the hydrogel spacer, which is clinically proven to lower radiation exposure to the surrounding organs and tissue, is a really positive development.”

He added: “The introduction of advancements like this are so important as they give patients the confidence that not only are we doing our best to treat the cancer but also that we are protecting long-term quality of life.”

The 15 Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs) across England have responsibility for making up the use of SpaceOAR hydrogel for patients in local hospitals, with Wessex AHSN helping to support the rollout at UHS.

It is being introduced on a limited basis for patients most at risk of damage until full NHS commissioning is approved.

Joe Sladen, associate director at Wessex AHSN, said: “It’s great news that patients are benefitting from SpaceOAR in Southampton. We’re very proud to support innovations which improve patient quality of life, reduce harm and help people get better quicker.”

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said: “This further advance in NHS care for prostate cancer means patients will have safer treatment with fewer side effects. It is another step forward in world-class cancer care.”