Radiotherapy for vulval cancer

radiotherapy machine

External radiotherapy 

External radiotherapy is a treatment that uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells.  The beams of radiation are aimed at the cancer from a machine called a linear accelerator. Radiotherapy for vulval cancer may be given:

  • Instead of surgery if you are not able to have an anaesthetic or are not well enough to recover from surgery
  • Before surgery to shrink a tumour
  • After surgery to destroy any remaining tumour - this is known as adjuvant treatment
  • With chemotherapy to make the treatment work better (chemoradiation)
  • To relieve and control symptoms if the cancer is advanced or has come back. For example, to control pain. Radiotherapy can also help to dry up a wound that may be oozing a lot. 

Ovarian transposition

This is surgery you may have before external radiotherapy to move one of your ovaries from the pelvis. This is to try to protect it from being damaged by the radiation, to keep your fertility. Read more about fertility and cancer.

Side-effects of vulval radiotherapy

Short-term possible side-effects 

  • Bladder and back passage irritation
  • Changes to your bowel habits (constipation or diarrhoea)
  • Changes in your bladder habits (frequency and urgency)
  • Skin irritation and rashes in the area
  • Tiredness (fatigue)
  • Loss of hair in genital area
  • Nausea (rare)

These side-effects usually last for 2 to 4 weeks after treatment.

Longer-term possible side-effects

  • Blood in your urine or bowel motions
  • Narrowing of the vagina
  • Infertility and early menopause

Sometimes side-effects can appear months or even years after treatment. 

For more information

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1800 200 700

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