Radiotherapy for womb cancer

Woman in radiotherapy

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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 womb cancer may be given:

  • Instead of surgery.
  • After surgery to destroy any remaining tumour.
  • With chemotherapy to make the treatment work better (chemoradiation).
  • To relieve symptoms if the cancer is advanced or has come back. 

Side-effects of womb radiotherapy

Short term possible side-effects

  • Bladder and back passage irritation.
  • Changes to your bowel habits (constipation or diarrhoea).
  • Skin irritation and rashes.
  • Tiredness (fatigue).
  • Loss of hair in genital area.
  • Nausea and sickness.

Longer term possible side-effects

  • Blood in your urine or bowel motions.
  • Narrowing of the vagina.
  • Infertility.
  • Lymphoedema.

Read more about external radiotherapy and its side-effects.

Internal radiotherapy (brachytherapy)

Internal radiotherapy means radiotherapy treatment delivered from the inside of your body. 

It gives a high dose of radiation to a small area to kill cancer cells in an area at the top of the vagina called the vaginal vault. A small radioactive source goes into your vagina through a hollow tube (applicator). 

Before bracyhtherapy treatment

The applicator is inserted into the vagina so it will sit against the vaginal vault. This procedure will not be painful but may be a little uncomfortable. You will not need an anaesthetic for this procedure.

The treatment will take about an hour.Most of the time is spent of planning the treatment to make sure the right area is been targeted. The treatment itself only takes a couple of minutes to deliver. Once the treatment is completed, the applicator is removed and you can go home.

You may need to come back again for further treatments. Your consultant will decide how many you will need. It is usually between two and four.

Side-effects of internal radiotherapy

Short term possible side-effects

  • Vaginal and back passage irritation.
  • Changes to your bowel habits (constipation or diarrhoea).
  • Skin irritation and rashes in the area.
  • Tiredness (fatigue).
  • Feeling sick.
  • Problems passing urine.
  • Vaginal discharge.
  • Abdominal (tummy) cramps.

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

Longer term possible side-effects

  • Early menopause.
  • Narrowing of the vagina.
  • Difficulty having sex.
  • Infertility.
  • Bladder or bowel problems .

These can happen months or even years after treatment. 

For more information

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1800 200 700

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