Radiation therapy, also called radiotherapy, is an important part of the treatment plan for many patients with cervical cancer. This type of treatment uses high-energy radiation waves or particles to destroy cancer cells by damaging their DNA. Radiation therapy may be incorporated into your treatment to kill cancer cells after surgery, shrink tumors before surgery, prevent recurrence and relieve symptoms caused by the cancer, such as pain.
Several types of radiation therapy are used for cervical cancer and you may have more than one of these through the course of your treatment:
- External Beam Radiation Therapy (EBRT). This treatment approach uses a large machine called a linear accelerator to generate and direct the radiation to the precise tumor location in the body. The dose of radiation you’ll receive is divided into fractions so that you’ll receive these fractions over several days and weeks. For example, you might receive radiation 5 days a week for 5 weeks.
- Chemoradiation. This treatment delivers chemotherapy and external beam radiation therapy (EBRT) at the same time. The chemotherapy drugs help to sensitize the cancer cells to the effects of the radiation.
- Brachytherapy. A form of internal radiation therapy, this treatment places radioactive material or seeds in a tube that’s placed in the vagina, near the cancer. Brachytherapy may be high-dose or low-dose and may be combined with EBRT, and/or chemoradiation.