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Ann B. Barshinger Cancer Institute

Gynecologic Cancer

Cancer Institute > Gynecologic Cancer > Radiation Therapy

Radiation Therapy for Gynecologic Cancers

Radiation therapy, or radiotherapy, has played a major role in treating women’s reproductive cancers for more than a century. Today radiation therapy remains an integral part of our multidisciplinary approach to several gynecologic cancers, including cancer of the uterus, cervix, vulva and vagina. Accreditation by the American College of Radiology and the American Society for Radiation Oncology reflects the high level of quality, safety, and comprehensive services we provide.

A targeted treatment plan

For early stage cancers, radiation therapy may be used after surgery if there is a high risk the cancer may return. In other patients, radiotherapy, with or without chemotherapy, may be preferable. If the cancer has spread, radiation therapy may help improve quality of life by relieving symptoms.

We use two types of radiation therapy to treat gynecological cancers: external beam radiation therapy and internal radiation therapy.

External beam radiation therapy

External beam radiation therapy uses a machine directed to treat cancer within the body and involves a series of daily outpatient treatments. The treatments are painless and similar to getting an X-ray. Sessions usually take less than half an hour, Monday through Friday, for 5-6 weeks.

We offer the most advanced, most precise radiotherapy technologies available today, including:

  • Three-dimensional conformal radiation therapy (3D-CRT)
  • Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT)

Both approaches combine multiple radiation fields to deliver precise doses to the affected area. Tailoring each of the radiation beams to focus on the tumor delivers a high dose of radiation to the tumor and avoids nearby healthy tissue. In addition, image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT) is often used to track the tumor during treatment. IGRT techniques include using implanted gold markers and X-rays or CT imaging on our TomoTherapy® system to localize or visualize the tumor prior to each treatment.

Internal radiation therapy

Internal radiation therapy delivers treatment by using radioactive sources placed into the vagina, uterus and/or surrounding tissues to kill the cancer cells. This type of therapy is also called:

  • Internal radiotherapy
  • Intracavitary radiotherapy
  • Brachytherapy

For best results, internal radiation therapy is usually done at the same time or after external beam radiation therapy.

Brachytherapy is important in the treatment of vaginal, cervical, and uterine cancers. We use high-dose-rate brachytherapy, which usually does not require a hospital admission. The entire procedure typically takes a few hours. In some simple cases, treatment can take less than an hour. Depending on the type of cancer you have, you may need several sessions of brachytherapy.

You can have confidence in our team

Our staff of physicians, technicians, dosimetrists, and physicists monitors you closely to ensure you are receiving the correct dose at the right time in the right place. Our radiation oncologists work closely with your other doctors to give you the benefit of a team approach—a team that also includes social workers, dietitians, and nurses.

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