Prostate cancer spacers

Spacers are an effective technique to reduce the side effects of prostate radiotherapy. They protect the rectum during radiotherapy treatment by moving it away from the prostate gland. Studies have shown that patients experience fewer bowel-related, urinary, and erectile dysfunction side effects and improved quality of life compared with those who don’t have a spacer inserted.

The absorbable spacer is injected during a simple one-off procedure and is gradually absorbed and eliminated naturally from the body through your urine.

Where fiducial markers are required, they may also be inserted at the same time as the spacer, but this will be discussed with you in advance. Find out more about fiducial markers

At GenesisCare we offer spacers at no extra cost to patients who haven't had their prostate removed and who are undergoing conventional radiotherapy for prostate cancer or prostate reirradiation on the MRIdian.

Spacers are not a clinical requirement for patients receiving prostate radiotherapy on the MRIdian over 5 days due to treatment accuracy, therefore the cost of a spacer is not covered by insurers. A self-pay spacer insertion is available on request. Find out more about the MRIdian here.

Make an enquiry about spacers

Whether you're in need of treatment or would like more information please complete our enquiry form and we will get back to you - usually within 24 hours.

The whole point of a spacer is to benefit me after I’ve had my radiotherapy treatment

– L.D – prostate patient

What are spacers?

How is the spacer inserted?

Spacer insertions are routinely performed under local anaesthetic at a number of our outpatient centres as a safe and convenient alternative to having the insertion under general anaesthetic within a hospital environment.

Insertions are also available as a day case procedure, performed by urologists within the GenesisCare network at a number of our national partner hospitals, located throughout the UK.

Your urologist will use a needle to insert the spacer between the prostate and the rectum. It is a minimally invasive procedure that takes around 30 minutes. The biodegradable spacer stays in position during your radiotherapy treatment cycle.

We accept referrals for patients receiving prostate radiotherapy treatment within GenesisCare network, or from patients just wishing to self-fund the spacer insertion.

What happens afterwards?

The spacer stays in place throughout the course of your treatment and is gradually absorbed by the body naturally .

Most people  recover quickly from the procedure without suffering any side effects. We’ll provide you with some aftercare advice following an insertion under local anaesthetic at one of our outpatient centres.

My appointment was very efficient and the procedure itself took no more than 25 minutes

– L.D – prostate patient

Are spacers for prostate cancer safe?

Spacers have been shown in clinical studies to be safe and effective, and they are approved by National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE). With the spacer in place, your consultant can target your cancer while reducing the risks of side effects compared to having radiotherapy without the spacer.

You may notice some temporary discomfort at the injection site and feel full in the back passage. Both these feelings normally pass quickly. There is also a very small risk of infection that can be treated with antibiotics if required.

How do spacers work?

The spacer pushes the rectum away from the prostate. This creates a protective gap that helps prevent damage to the rectum. The cancer cells can be accurately targeted while healthy organs and tissue are protected, reducing many side effects. The illustrations show the positioning of the spacer between the prostate and the rectum and the safe space created.

Who can benefit from spacers?

Spacers can be used with both internal and external radiotherapy. They are routinely used worldwide, but spacers aren’t for everyone. Your doctor is the best person to advise you on it.

Reviewed by:

Dr Philip Camilleri
Consultant Clinical Oncologist
June 2023

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