Brachytherapy for gynecologic cancer

With close to 400 treatments performed per year, our UK Radiation Oncology physicians are highly experienced in using brachytherapy to treat gynecologic cancers, including:

  • Vaginal.
  • Vulva.
  • Uterus.
  • Cervix.
  • Endometrial.

We typically use brachytherapy for the following treatment situations:

  • Patients with newly diagnosed gynecologic cancer receiving brachytherapy as up-front treatment.
  • Patients who have had surgery to remove a gynecologic cancer but may be at risk for a recurrence; called adjuvant brachytherapy.
  • Patients with gynecologic cancer who have already been treated (with radiation therapy or surgery or both) and have had a recurrence.

What should patients expect?

During an intracavitary brachytherapy procedure, physicians place radiation materials inside body cavity affected by the cancer, such as the uterus, vagina or cervix.

  • First, your physician places a radiation applicator, which takes about 30 minutes to one hour and may be done under local, general or regional anesthesia. This is typically done using imaging technology, such as ultrasound or CT if necessary, to ensure the correct placement.
  • Then the patient returns to the treatment room for one to five treatment sessions, during which the radiation is remotely delivered through the applicator for the time necessary to administer the prescribed dose.

During an interstitial brachytherapy procedure, physicians place the radiation materials directly into the tumor via “seed implants.”

  • Prior to the treatment, patients first meet with their doctor for a planning session, during which we use physical examination and imaging technology, such as CT and MRI, to map the treatment area and surrounding healthy tissues.
  • Unlike other radiation treatments, interstitial brachytherapy requires only one treatment session of less than one hour typically, during which:
  • Patients are either given local, regional or general anesthesia and/or a relaxing agent.
  • Physicians may use ultrasound to guide the placement of the seeds, which are smaller than a grain of rice (five mm), into the treatment area, while protecting the nearby healthy tissues.
  • Physicists measure the radiation levels in the treatment area and the rest of the body to ensure the proper areas are being treated and healthy tissue is being spared.

After waking up from the procedure, patients are able to return home the same day as treatment.

What are the side effects?

The side effects from intracavitary and interstitial brachytherapy for gynecologic cancers are minimal and include:

  • Vaginal discharge.
  • Temporary discomfort.
  • Bladder irritation.