Endorectal Balloons for Prostate Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy is a treatment option for prostate cancer. Radiation therapy can be very effective in treating prostate cancer. Some providers may suggest the use of an endorectal balloon with treatment. The use of a rectal balloon can reduce radiation exposure to the rectum, and potentially reduce side effects from radiation therapy.
What is an endorectal balloon?
Rectal balloons are made of a soft pliable material. They have flexible rounded tips with a small narrow balloon on one end of a thin tube that is connected to a syringe on the other end. The balloon is lubricated first and inserted into the rectum while you are lying on your back on the treatment table with your knees bent and your feet resting flat on the table. Then water (or another liquid) is inserted into the tube from the syringe to fill the balloon. The water stays in the balloon during the treatment, after treatment is complete all the water from the balloon is removed via the tube and the syringe and the balloon is removed from the rectum. A new balloon will be used each day for treatment.
Why are endorectal balloons used?
If your provider suggests the use of a rectal balloon during your radiation treatments, there are a few reasons why. Rectal balloons can be used to help remove rectal gas, reduce how much the prostate moves during the treatment, and provide a more consistent set-up for daily treatments. An important part of radiation therapy is that your body is in the same exact position for every treatment. This can be a challenge because internal organs in your body may shift, especially those that are filled with food, urine, stool, air, etc. An endorectal balloon helps by decreasing the motion of the prostate, allowing the radiation treatment to be more precisely delivered. Daily changes in rectal and bladder filling can change the position and shape of the prostate. The rectal balloon is designed to control the rectal volume so that it is the same on a daily basis. Having the shape of the rectum the same each day makes the treatment set up consistent.
What can I expect with rectal balloons?
The rectal balloon is inserted into the rectum and inflated to an amount determined by your provider. In most cases, the balloon will be inserted by the radiation therapist for your CT scan, which is used for radiation treatment planning (also known as the simulation session), and again daily for each radiation treatment. It is removed at the end of each daily treatment.
Will the rectal balloon cause discomfort?
The rectal balloon has no seams and a soft/flexible rounded tip that is about the same diameter as a straw. Most patients report that they feel some pressure once the balloon is inserted and inflated. Studies have shown that about 97% of patients have tolerated the balloon throughout treatment.
Are rectal balloons the best option for me?
You should talk to your provider about which method of rectal protection is best for you and make a decision together.
Ronson, B., Yonemoto, L., Rossi, C., Slater, J. (2006). Patient tolerance of rectal balloons in conformal radiation treatment of prostate cancer. International Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics, 64(5): 1367-70. https://www.redjournal.org/article/S0360-3016(05)02866-X/fulltext