And now, a new procedure at Tanner Health System is helping reduce the possible side effects from radiation therapy.
Radiation is a standard treatment for cancer, prized for its ability to destroy the DNA in cancer cells, thereby destroying the cancer. Often, the radiation is delivered to the site of the cancer on a machine called a linear accelerator, which delivers a precise beam of radiation to the cancerous tissue.
“The key with radiotherapy is to deliver the radiation precisely to the cancerous tissue, and advances in radiotherapy technology continue to improve the accuracy of the treatments,” said J. Richard Bland, MD, a board-certified radiation oncologist with Tanner Radiation Oncology and medical operations leader for Tanner Cancer Care. “Radiation treatment does, however, carry some risk of side effects: The radiation can damage nearby healthy tissues, for instance. And in the case of prostate cancer, the area that tends to be impacted is the rectum.”
Now, Tanner Cancer Care and West Georgia Urology are among the few cancer treatment providers in the nation offering the new SpaceOAR Hydrogel system, a new technology being offered as part of Tanner’s increasing commitment to multidisciplinary urology cancer management.
The SpaceOAR, developed by medical technology company Augmenix, uses a medical substance called hydrogel to serve as a “spacer” between the prostate and the rectum, protecting the rectum from the effects of radiotherapy.
“Radiotherapy for prostate cancer remains a leading treatment because it has such a strong history of success, but it can cause a condition called ‘rectal toxicity,’ which can include a number of symptoms like diarrhea, urgency, bleeding, pain and more,” said Kevin McLaughlin, MD, a board-certified urologist with West Georgia Urology and a member of the patient care team at Tanner Cancer Care. “With the SpaceOAR system, we can safely move the prostate away from the rectum, so the rectum is no longer within the area being exposed to radiation during cancer treatment.”
The hydrogel substance is already used for other medical applications, including cardiac procedures, brain surgery and eye surgery. The SpaceOAR system is inserted during an outpatient, minimally invasive procedure prior to beginning radiation therapy. The hydrogel stays in the body for six months, then safely leaves the body in the urine, leaving nothing behind.
“Most patients report that they can’t even tell it’s there,” said Christopher Powell, MD, a urologist with West Georgia Urology and a member of the patient care team at Tanner Cancer Care. “But studies have shown a real improvement in symptoms among men who choose to have the SpaceOAR system as opposed to men who don’t have it. This kind of multidisciplinary care ensures participants are receiving the best possible outcomes.”