Brachytherapy for treating gynecological cancers
Brachytherapy for cervical cancer
Are you looking for information on cervical cancer? Please visit the cervical cancer section for more detailed information.
Brachytherapy for womb cancer (uterus or endometrial cancer)
Surgery is the main treatment method used for womb cancer. Radiotherapy (external beam radiotherapy or brachytherapy), can be used after surgery to help prevent the cancer from returning.1
When brachytherapy is given after surgery, the brachytherapy is given via an applicator which is placed in the vagina.2 This is not a painful procedure and there is no need for an anesthetic.
If surgery has not been performed brachytherapy is given via tubes or an applicator which are placed in the womb. The cervix (the opening of the womb into the vagina) needs to be open to place the tubes inside, which can cause some discomfort, so a general anesthetic or a local anesthetic is given. The radiation is then delivered directly to the tumor via these tubes.
Side effects from brachytherapy treatment can include diarrhea, soreness of the vagina, an increased risk of vaginal infection, early menopause due to your ovaries not working and your vagina may become less stretchy and drier.3
A recent study has shown that after surgery, brachytherapy is equally as effective as external beam radiotherapy at preventing the cancer from returning.4 An advantage of brachytherapy is that it is associated with a lower risk of side effects and a better quality of life after treatment.4
If surgery is not possible, brachytherapy, often in combination with external beam radiotherapy, can be used to help cure the cancer.2
Brachytherapy for vaginal cancer
The two main methods of treating vaginal cancer are surgery and radiotherapy.
Which treatment you have will depend on the stage of your cancer. Brachytherapy can be given alone or after external beam radiotherapy (EBRT) as an additional dose of radiation.2 Brachytherapy is given via an applicator which is placed in the vagina. The radiation is then delivered to the vagina, cervix and lower part of the womb via these tubes.
Learn more about the principles of brachytherapy.
1. National Cancer Institute. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/endometrial/Patient/page4. Accessed March 2014.
2. Viswanathan AN, Petereit DG. In: Brachytherapy: applications and techniques. Devlin PM (Ed). Philadelphia, PA, LWW. 2007.
3. Atahan IL, Ozyar E, Yildiz F, et al. Int J Gynecol Cancer 2008;18(6):1294-99.
4. Nout R, Smit V, Putter H, et al. The Lancet 2010;375(9717):816-23.