CANCER patients in Somerset are benefitting from an award-winning clinical service that provides extra support in the months and years after radiotherapy treatment.

The Macmillan Radiotherapy Late Effects service provides specialist advice, support and management for people who are experiencing ongoing effects from radiotherapy.

The service was initially pioneered at Musgrove Park Hospital in 2014, but has since been expanded to treat patients at Yeovil Hospital and Bridgwater Community Hospital.

The support provided by the service ranges from lifestyle changes and self-management, through to prescribing medications, and referrals to specialist regional and national services.

Patients may then be referred to counselling or exercise programs which include swimming and other activities to improve function and sleep.

The late effects team has grown and now leads a new regional service in a partnership between Macmillan Cancer Support, the Somerset, Wiltshire, Avon and Gloucestershire Cancer Alliance – also known as ‘SWAG’, and radiotherapy services across the South West region.

This work was recognised with a prestigious Macmillan Professionals Award for Innovation Excellence in November 2023.

The partnership will eventually see radiotherapy late effects services develop a network of support at four radiotherapy centres in the areas that made up the SWAG Cancer Alliance – the Beacon Centre at MPH, Royal United Hospital in Bath, Cheltenham General Hospital, and Bristol Haematology and Oncology Centre.

It’s the first project of its kind in the UK, where all the NHS trusts in a cancer alliance have worked with Macmillan to give patients across a region the same level of support.

Christine Pike, one of the patients from Somerset who’s benefited from the radiotherapy late effects service, said: “Following my cervical cancer surgery and intensive radiotherapy treatment, I worked hard to return to normal fitness, but after the first three months of recovery, late effects of the treatment began to take hold.

"Whilst I was delighted that the cancer was in remission, I was struggling with a fragile pelvis as well as abdominal muscle and nerve damage…the symptoms were life changing.

“The referral made to the late effects team at the Beacon Centre at Musgrove Park Hospital by my oncology surgeon was a salvation.

“From that moment, the late effects radiographer Lisa Durrant has guided me towards achieving goals of independence and a fulfilling lifestyle.

"Not only has she arranged numerous appointments for me over three years (including those for bowel, bladder, and bone strengthening, as well as continuing lymphedema and physiotherapy), but her emotional support is hard to quantify."