Alexandra - Dupuytren's LDRT patient

Dupuytren’s Didn’t Slow Me Down: How Low Dose Radiation Therapy Rescued My Hand

Alexandra noticed a hard lump developing on her left palm. She did her best to continue her daily life, but as the lump steadily worsened, she found it increasingly difficult to grip her bicycle’s handlebars or hold a dog lead. The lump was diagnosed as Dupuytren’s contracture and low dose radiation therapy helped Alexandra get back to her active life.

A Lump Put a Bump in the Road

In 2019, when I was 51 years old, I noticed a couple of hard lumps on my left palm. I realized they were a bit uncomfortable when I went cycling, and things like that. If I went over a bump in the road on my bike, it felt like there was a foreign object in the palm of my hand and it became increasingly difficult to grip my bicycle handlebar or hold my dog’s lead. Over time, the lump seemed to be getting a bit more pronounced, so I asked my family doctor about it.

The lump was diagnosed as Dupuytren’s contracture, a benign condition that affects a layer of tissue that lies under the skin of the palm. Knots of tissue form under the skin — and if left untreated, could result in the formation of thick cords that can pull one or more fingers into a bent position permanently.

My doctor told me there was a surgical treatment where they would cut the Dupuytren’s cords and release the contracture. It was in the very early stages, really. My hand was still ok at this time and surgery seemed like a big deal.  

I decided to investigate all treatments and learned about low dose radiation therapy, a very effective way of treating Dupuytren’s. On the advice of friends, I visited Dr. John Glees at Cancer Centre London in Wimbledon, where such patients are treated using an Xstrahl 150 system.

I had an initial consultation with Dr. Glees and he suggested low dose radiation therapy could help. I thought I might as well do it, because obviously, I didn’t want it to progress. I received five daily treatments, then had a break, then I had five more daily treatments, each of which took no longer than a few minutes.

Stress-free Treatment a Success

After the first five radiation treatments, I didn’t notice much of a difference, although I was happy there were no obvious side effects. After the second round of five treatments, I noticed the lump was smaller and, although my skin was becoming scaly, it was itchy rather than painful. After the full course of treatment, the lump has nearly disappeared, and I can barely feel it. It just continued to get better and better over the next several months. I’m really pleased with the outcome.

I do know someone that had surgical treatment for the same condition, that was around the same progression, and that was much less successful than mine. I would highly recommend the low dose radiation treatment.

Low dose radiation therapy can provide pain relief and prevent the progression of Dupuytren’s contracture. During treatment, radiation is aimed towards the nodules and cords to soften and shrink the lumps and prevent the formation of contractures.

Dr. Glees added, “Treatments such as this can help halt progression of the lump and improve the situation considerably, which it certainly has done in Alexandra’s case.” He said Dupuytren’s patients at the Cancer Centre London are treated on the Xstrahl system using a 10cm x 10cm field size to cover the whole palm and fingers. Two to three months after treatment, patients have a follow-up visit to make sure the lump has reduced in size and that there is no other disease progression.

What to Expect During Radiation Therapy Treatment

  1. Patients are asked to position the hand, palm up, on a flat surface, usually upon a positioning bag. The treatment machine will rest lightly on your hand and you will be asked to maintain that position during the treatment delivery.

  2. Each appointment will take around 10 minutes each day, with the radiation therapy treatment itself taking just under a minute to complete.

Radiation therapy treatment for Dupuytren’s disease will usually be administered over five consecutive days (excluding weekends) and then repeated after a break. The radiation will be targeted to the same area throughout your course of treatment, even if the nodules in the hand seem to be decreasing in size. This is done to minimize the likelihood of recurrence after treatment.