In the fight against prostate cancer, radiation treatment, or radiotherapy, has become an integral part of the process. While radiotherapy is effective and typically results in good outcomes, it’s necessary to safeguard the healthy tissues surrounding the treatment area from unwanted exposure.
Perhaps you’ve been diagnosed with prostate cancer and are understandably concerned about the effects. One innovative solution to ease these concerns is a product called Barrigel. Here’s everything you need to know about this innovative solution.
What Is Barrigel Spacer?
Barrigel is a polyethylene glycol (PEG) hydrogel spacer specifically designed for use during prostate cancer radiation therapy. As a biodegradable material, the gel minimizes radiation exposure to the rectum by maintaining a protective space around the organ. This can offer you an added layer of protection and peace of mind throughout your treatment.
How It Works
Barrigel is injected into the space between the prostate and rectum, increasing the distance between them. Moving the rectal wall out of the way allows for more precise targeting of radiation to the prostate while significantly reducing the dose delivered to the rectum. Effectively decreasing rectal toxicity can enhance your comfort and quality of life during and after treatment.
Using Barrigel can significantly reduce the following short-term and long-term side effects commonly associated with radiation therapy.
Short-term Side Effects:
- Increased frequency of bowel movements or bowel incontinence
- Diarrhea and loose stools
- Aggravation of hemorrhoids
Long-term Side Effects:
- Radiation proctitis, an inflammation of the rectum
- Chronic rectal bleeding
- Narrowing (stricture) of the rectum
- Persistent hemorrhoids
- Chronic diarrhea
- Development of ulcers in the rectum
After administering local, regional, or general anesthesia, your doctor will gently inject the gel in a sterilized area just beneath your scrotum. This delivery process is designed to accurately place the spacer in the area between your rectum and prostate.
To ensure that your prostate and rectum are adequately separated and protected, an ultrasound will be performed during the insertion. This step is crucial to confirm that the spacer is perfectly positioned for your treatment.
Recovery is quick, allowing you to return to your normal activities shortly after receiving the injection.
Barrigel vs. SpaceOAR
Barrigel and SpaceOAR are hydrogel spacers used in prostate radiation therapy, and they share the common goal of minimizing radiation exposure to the rectum. Both products are suitable for a wide range of patients undergoing radiation therapy for prostate cancer.
The decision to use Barrigel or SpaceOAR depends on various factors, including:
- Your anatomy
- Your radiation therapy plan
- Your doctor’s preference
However, Barrigel may offer more flexibility for clinicians to shape the spacer to fit the size of your prostate and the rectal anatomy better, thus providing more secure coverage.
While SpaceOAR stays in the body for about six months, Barrigel can last 6–12 months because its duration is adjustable through different-sized biopolymer particles. Barrigel’s extended duration is typically sufficient for an entire course of radiation therapy.
Both spacers will dissolve naturally, eliminating the need for removal procedures.
Additionally, the safety profiles of both are similar. The most common side effects are minimal and related to the injection procedure rather than the substance of the spacer material.
Frequently Asked Patient Questions
Candidates are typically patients undergoing radiation therapy for prostate cancer who are at risk of rectal radiation exposure.
Barrigel is administered via injection through your sterilized skin in the perineal region. The procedure is frequently completed with ultrasound guidance to ensure precision and safety in its application.
While side effects are uncommon, they may include discomfort or pain at the injection site, minor bleeding, infection, or inflammation.