Treating Christina's Cervical Cancer with Brachytherapy

Real Stories

Christina Zehetner, a Munich resident, shares her experience of being diagnosed with cervical cancer and undergoing brachytherapy treatment in August 2020. She reflects on her journey of recovery since then.

Christina is 48 years old and lives near Erding, outside of Munich. She is a social worker and a teacher who offers training and courses to parents and other social services workers.

Christina has been married for seven years to her husband with whom she has a 14-year-old daughter. She confesses that it's not always easy to watch one's teenager getting so independent but she and her husband are really proud of their daughter. The family also has a small dog who was a great companion when Christina was sick.

The cervical cancer diagnosis

Cervical cancer is cancer located in the female reproductive system. It starts in the cells of the cervix (the lower, narrow end of the uterus). Cervical cancer usually develops slowly over time.

Like most patients, the news of having cervical cancer was a major shock for Christina. She was at a routine check-up appointment and felt completely healthy at the time. No pain, no discomfort, no other symptoms, yet on her way home she had become a seriously ill patient. Her gynecologist tried to ease the blow by explaining the treatment plan, but it was too much for her to process and she barely paid attention to her doctor.

Cervical cancer radiation treatment

Cervical cancer can be treated in several ways. It depends on the type and stage of cervical cancer and how far it has spread. Treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.

At the outpatient clinic in Großhadern, Dr. Corradini initially suggested radio chemotherapy to Christina and took the time to explain the procedure and answer all of her questions. This was the first time Christina ever heard of brachytherapy.

Brachytherapy is an effective option treatment for cervical cancer patients.

What is brachytherapy?

Brachytherapy is a type of radiation therapy that is used to treat many forms of cancer and most cervical cancers.

Also known as 'internal radiotherapy', Brachytherapy is a radiation treatment in which a radiation source is placed inside the patient's body. Unlike external beam radiation which uses an external device to administer radiation to the patient, brachytherapy involves the insertion of applicators close to or within the tumor. It allows for a high dose of radiation to the cancer cells with minimal exposure to surrounding cells, healthy tissue, and organs.

How to learn more about brachytherapy treatment?

After her gynecology oncologist explained the benefits of brachytherapy as a means of eradicating her tumor cells and cancer, Christina made the decision to pursue this course of treatment.

She then did her own research online. Unfortunately, Christina was unable to find much information on brachytherapy, risk factors, or long-term side effects. She had questions about potential complications, and the procedure itself, but found that many of the things she read weren't specifically about her type of cancer and were more confusing than helpful.

At Elekta, we know that getting clear information about a specific treatment can feel overwhelming. To help cervical cancer patients and their families, we developed resources about brachytherapy as an option treatment for different types of cancer, among which cervical cancer.

"I would definitely recommend brachytherapy to other cancer patients"

Christina completed her brachytherapy treatment in August 2020. She had a great experience with it and wants to give hope and advice to others. She notes that she has seen relatively few lasting side effects, over one and a half years since her treatment. Despite the struggles she faced, Christina has made an excellent recovery and feels grateful for the brachytherapy treatment she received.

"Brachytherapy definitely helped to improve my quality of life. I would even say that the treatment probably saved my life."

A cancer diagnosis can be immensely overwhelming and it can take patients a long time to process the psychological effects. Christina had plenty of worries coming into treatment, but she soon realized that these were largely unfounded. With a great team of nurses and specialists providing quality care, as she had here at Großhadern Hospital, you can get through it. It's not easy, but there's no need to be scared of brachytherapy. I found it really helpful to ask lots of questions and get information from the doctors, who were very accommodating. While it's normal to feel like burying your head in the sand for a while, eventually it's important to start talking about your diagnosis, treatment, and emotions, so you can find your way through this difficult time.

Looking towards the future, Christina confesses: "My biggest wish is to be able to spend lots more precious time with my friends and family. And I definitely want to see a bit more of the world."