Background: Hydrogel spacer is an innovative method to protect the rectal wall during prostate cancer radiotherapy. Clinical effects are not well known.
Methods: Patients have been surveyed before, at the last day, and 2-3 months after radiotherapy using a validated questionnaire (Expanded Prostate Cancer Index Composite). Median dose to the prostate in the spacer subgroup (SP) was 78 Gy in 2 Gy fractions. The results were independently compared with two matched-pair subgroups (treated conventionally without spacer): 3D conformal 70.2 Gy in 1.8 Gy fractions (3DCRT) and intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) 76 Gy in 2 Gy fractions. There were 28 patients in each of the three groups.
Results: Baseline mean bowel bother scores were 96 points in all subgroups. Similar mean changes (SP 16, 3DCRT 14, IMRT 17 points) were observed at the end of radiotherapy. The smallest difference resulted in the spacer subgroup 2-3 months after radiotherapy (SP 2, 3DCRT 8, IMRT 6 points). Bowel bother scores were only significantly different in comparison to baseline levels in the spacer subgroup. The percentage of patients reporting moderate/big bother with specific symptoms did not increase for any item (urgency, frequency, diarrhoea, incontinence, bloody stools, pain).
Conclusion: Moderate bowel quality-of-life changes can be expected during radiotherapy irrespective of spacer application or total dose. Advantages with a spacer can be expected a few weeks after treatment.