FORMER cancer patients from south Cumbria and north Lancashire left with debilitating side effects could see their quality of life improved by a brand new service.

Pelvic radiation disease affects thousands of people who have undergone radical radiotherapy in their pelvic area for diseases such as prostate, cervical, womb, bowel and bladder cancer.

Unpleasant symptoms that can develop as the body heals include incontinence, bowel problems, tummy cramps, bloating, erectile dysfunction, swollen legs, pelvis and lower back pain.

Led by nurses, the new service is being launched at the Rosemere Cancer Centre, at the Royal Preston Hospital, where all patients from south Cumbria and Lancashire travel for radiotherapy.

A three-year pilot costing £283,521 is being funded by the Rosemere Cancer Foundation charity.

Project leader Liz Walne, an advanced specialist practitioner in the late effects of pelvic radiation, said: "While radiotherapy is becoming increasingly effective as a treatment, for some patients being cured of cancer can come at a sacrifice to their quality of life.

“For too long, both patients and clinicians have accepted the symptoms of pelvic radiation disease (PRD) as a trade-off. As a result, symptoms are under reported, not properly assessed and mismanaged.

"Through our pilot specialist service, our aim is to identify and treat PRD to resolve or improve symptoms and thereby improve quality of life.

"We want the project to provide a foundation on which to develop a business case for permanent funding for the service, including all relevant trusts, once a better understanding of it is achieved.”

Around 857 patients each year have treatment targeting high-energy radiotherapy beams on their lower tummy between the hips at Rosemere Cancer Centre. Studies show half of these will go on to develop uncomfortable and debilitating side effects after their treatment.

Dan Hill, Rosemere Cancer Foundation’s chief officer, said: “We are proud to support such an important pilot project that is raising awareness of and seeking to treat PRD, a condition that causes much suffering but is often hidden by patients themselves, who are just grateful to be cancer-free.”

The new service is designed to help recent patients as well as those suffering with PRD after treatment that may have taken place many years ago.

It will be led by nurses and supported by gastroenterology, urology and gynaecology consultants.

To find out more about Rosemere Cancer Foundation, visit