Radiation therapy for cervical cancer
Treatment for cervical cancer often includes radiation therapy, which uses high energy x-rays or radioactive particles to zap and kill malignant cells or keep cancerous cells from growing, the National Cancer Institute explains.
Radiation therapy is the preferred treatment alone for some early-stage cervical cancer, or it may be used after surgery, according to the American Cancer Society. Depending on individual cases, it may also be given at the same time as chemotherapy to treat cervical cancer — a practice known as chemoradiation.
Radiation is often part of the treatment for cervical cancer that has spread to other organs and tissues or recurred after treatment, too. And radiation is also frequently part of palliative therapy to help relieve symptoms and improve quality of life for late-stage IV cervical cancer patients.
There are two main types of radiation used in the treatment of cervical cancer: External beam radiation therapy (EBRT) delivers radiation therapy from the outside of the body, and intracavity brachytherapy treats cancer with radiation placed inside the body.
External beam radiation therapy (EBRT) aims x-rays directly at the cancer from outside the body. Although it only takes a few minutes for the treatment, and is similar to getting a standard x-ray, it can take a while for technicians to get your body placed in the precise position for the painless therapy.
If radiation is used as the main treatment for cervical cancer, EBRT is often combined with a low dose of a chemotherapy drug. The radiation treatments are given five days a week for six to seven weeks and, if chemo is added, it is given at various times during the scheduled radiation, depending on what chemotherapy drug is used.
EBRT may be a stand-alone treatment for areas where cervical cancer has metastasized or as the main treatment for cervical cancer in women who cannot tolerate chemotherapy.
March 18, 2020
Janet O’Dell, RN