Gynecologic Cancer Radiation Treatment
   
Facts about Gynecologic Cancers
Treatment Options for Gynecologic Cancers
External Beam Radiation Therapy
Brachytherapy (Internal Radiation)
 
FACTS ABOUT GYNECOLOGIC CANCERS
Gynecologic cancers include cancer of the uterus, ovaries, cervix, vagina, vulva and Fallopian tubes.

According to the American Cancer Society, nearly 83,000 women per year are diagnosed with some form of gynecologic cancer.

The most common gynecologic cancer is uterine cancer, with more than 40,000 cases diagnosed each year.

Every year, more than 28,000 women die from a type of gynecologic cancer.

Widespread screening with the Pap test has allowed doctors to find pre-cancerous changes in the cervix and vagina. This has helped prevent the development of some invasive cancers.
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TREATMENT OPTIONS FOR GYNECOLOGIC CANCERS
Treatment for gynecologic cancers depends on several factors, including the type of cancer, its extent (stage), its location and your overall health. It is important to talk with several cancer specialists before deciding on the best treatment for you, your cancer and your lifestyle.
A gynecologic oncologist is a doctor who specializes in surgically removing gynecologic cancers.
A radiation oncologist is a doctor specially trained to treat cancer with radiation therapy.
A medical oncologist is a doctor who specializes in treating cancer with drugs (chemotherapy).
Sometimes, your cancer may be cured by using only one type of treatment. In other cases, your cancer may be best cured using a combination of surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
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EXTERNAL BEAM RADIATION THERAPY
External beam radiation therapy involves a series of daily outpatient treatments to accurately deliver radiation to the pelvis. In most gynecologic cancers, radiation treatments consist of treament for the primary tumor +/- regional lymph nodes. 3-dimensional conformal radiotherapy (3D-CRT) combines multiple radiation treatment fields for precise delivery of radiation to the pelvis. Each of the radiation beams is designed to accurately focus on the patient's tumor while at the same time keeping radiation away from nearby organs such as the bladder, rectum or hips. Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) is an advanced version of 3D-CRT that modifies the intensity of the radiation within each beam. While this technique shows promise for treatment of gynecologic cancers, currently it is less commonly used than 3D-CRT.

Painless radiation treatments usually last less than 5 minutes but your appointment time is 15-30 minutes each day, Monday through Friday, for five to six weeks. This may be done in combination with brachytherapy (internal radiation), chemotherapy/hormone therapy, or both. Discuss with your doctor the correct length of external beam radiation therapy.

Potential short term side effects include skin irritation, fatigue, increased frequency or discomfort with urination, vaginal irritation, and cramping and/or diarrhea. Some patients have minor or no side effects, and typically symptoms resolve within a few weeks after completing treatments. If you have any symptoms during treatment, talk to your doctor, as he or she may be able to provide medications or other treatments that may help.
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BRACHYTHERAPY (INTERNAL RADIATION)
Brachytherapy (also called internal or intracavitary radiotherapy) involves placing radioactive sources in or next to the cancer. This is usually done at the same time or after external beam radiation therapy. Brachytherapy is very important in the treatment of vaginal, cervical and uterine cancers.
There are two main types of brachytherapy:
Low-dose rate brachytherapy is delivered over the course of 48 to 72 hours. You will be admitted into the hospital to receive this treatment.
High-dose rate brachytherapy is given over the course of several minutes, but the entire procedure typically takes a few hours. You may be able to go home immediately after this treatment.
Depending of the type of cancer you have, you may need to have several sessions of internal radiation to cure your cancer.
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