Radiation Therapy of Cervical Cancer
If you or someone you know has
been diagnosed with cervical cancer, you may want to explore radiation
therapy as a treatment option. Radiation exists all around
us. The word often evokes images of microwaves, nuclear bombs or
x-rays, but ultraviolet or UV radiation is also a natural part of
sunlight. Despite the negative images often associated with radiation,
doctors have long been aware of its powerful effects on effectively
treating many forms of cancer.
Radiation therapy, also known as radiotherapy, is used to kill cancer cells with the use of a high-energy x-ray. If you diagnosed in the early stages of cervical cancer before the disease has spread, radiation treatment can be just as effective as surgery. Even if you have had surgery, doctors may perform radiation therapy to kill any remaining cancer cells.
External Beam Radiation Therapy
One form of radiation therapy is called external beam radiation therapy or EBRT. This procedure involves using a machine to aim x-rays at the body. The procedure is performed on an outpatient basis for approximately 4-6 weeks. Sessions usually occur 5 days a week. Before the procedure begins, a planning session is arranged. This session involves taking a patient’s measurements and placing marks on the body to ensure the radiation beams are lined up in the correct position.
Although EBRT treatment is painless, patients may become increasingly tired as the sessions progress. Other side effects may include frequent urination, skin irritation, diarrhea or a loss of pubic hair. In rare cases, the treatment may stop the ovaries from performing which will result in early menopause, even for young patients.
Implant Radiation Therapy
Another alternative is called implant or internal radiation therapy and is also known as brachytherapy. The procedure involves inserting a small device directly into the cervix and then filing this device with radioactive material. The part of the procedure is normally performed in a shielded hospital room. The material is left in 1-3 days and it allows high doses of radiation to be delivered directly to the cancer which reduces exposure to nearby organs that do not contain any cancer cells. These steps may be repeated one to two more times during the course of the treatment to ensure all the cancer cells are destroyed.
Some patients may experience injury to the bladder, rectum or bowel as well as painful urination or bloody stools. A small percentage of patients may develop a fistula as a result of the radiation. This condition is an abnormal passageway that is created in the body and requires surgery to reverse.
Radiation therapy is a very common treatment option that should be explored for individuals diagnosed with cervical cancer. The procedure is virtually painless and newer, more advanced radiation machines have greatly improved success rates.
This page was last updated:
April 22, 2006It is not the intention of Cervicalcancer.org to provide specific medical advice, but rather to provide users with information to better understand their health and their diagnosed disorders. Specific medical advice will not be provided, and Cervicalcancer.org urges you to consult with a qualified physician for diagnosis and for answers to your personal questions.