Radiation therapy for foot pain?

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Radiation therapy is a proven life-saving cancer treatment, but new research has shown it can also be successful in resolving more benign health problems.

Professor Jarad Martin, a radiation oncologist at GenesisCare Newcastle, said the clinical trial results gave hope to sufferers of Ledderhose disease, a painful foot condition that affects thousands of Australians.

Presented at the European Society for Radiotherapy and Oncology’s Annual Scientific Meeting in May 2022, the research showed 74 percent of people with the disease suffered less pain using radiation therapy, significantly better than the placebo cohort.

Side-effects were rare, and the majority of patients’ pain remained controlled up to 18 months after treatment.

“People with painful Ledderhose disease, which isn’t getting better, should be aware that radiotherapy is an option which they can consider,” Prof Martin said.

Also known as plantar fibromatosis, Ledderhose disease is a benign thickening of the connective tissue in the soles of the feet, which typically starts as a small, painless lump that can become debilitating as it grows.

Kathleen, an aged care nurse, put up with nearly a year of such pain before starting treatment at GenesisCare, having tried a range of remedies such as steroid injections, strapping and orthotics.

“Nobody understands what you’re going through, but it was really affecting my ability to work and starting to get me down,” she said.

She was referred to Prof Martin, who has been offering low-dose radiation therapy for patients with similarly benign conditions for the past five years.

“Our experience mirrors the data from the new clinical trial showing that radiation therapy helps the majority of people to get back on their feet again,” Prof Martin said. 

Kathleen completed 10 sessions of outpatient treatment at GenesisCare centres near her work in Gateshead and her home in Maitland.

“Within the first week I was up and about without any issues, and by the end the constant discomfort was just a bad memory,” she said. 

“I’m so thankful to be free of that pain, and my team of doctors for pointing me in this direction.”

Professor Jarad Martin with colleagues from GenesisCare’s benign cancer treatment team in Newcastle and Maitland, fellow radiation oncologist Dr Phillipa Ell (left) and Nurse Unit Manager Jane Kennedy (centre)

Prof Martin is promoting awareness of radiotherapy as a safe and effective option to manage Ledderhose disease, working closely with surgeons in Newcastle and across the country.

”It’s great that we can offer this treatment close to where people live, and make a real difference quickly to their quality of life,” he said.

“Now we have not just the great experience locally, but also high-level clinical trial data to back it up, we don’t want to keep it a secret.”

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