Uterine Cancer (cont.)
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Radiation therapy is an option for women with all stages of uterine cancer. It may be used before or after surgery. For women who can't have surgery for other medical reasons, radiation therapy may be used instead to destroy cancer cells in the uterus. Women with cancer that invades tissue beyond the uterus may have radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. It affects cells in the treated area only.
Doctors use two types of radiation therapy to treat uterine cancer. Some women receive both types:
Side effects depend mainly on which type of radiation therapy is used, how much radiation is given, and which part of your body is treated. External radiation to the abdomen and pelvis may cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or urinary problems. You may lose hair in your genital area. Also, your skin in the treated area may become red, dry, and tender.
You are likely to become tired during external radiation therapy, especially in the later weeks of treatment. Resting is important, but doctors usually advise patients to try to stay as active as they can.
For women who have not had surgery to remove the ovaries, external radiation aimed at the pelvic area can harm the ovaries. Menstrual periods usually stop, and women may have hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause. Menstrual periods are more likely to return for younger women.
After either type of radiation therapy, you may have dryness, itching, or burning in your vagina. Your doctor may advise you to wait to have sex until a few weeks after radiation therapy ends.
Also, radiation therapy may make the vagina narrower. A narrow vagina can make sex or follow-up exams difficult. There are ways to prevent this problem. If it does occur, however, your health care team can tell you about ways to expand the vagina.
Although the side effects of radiation therapy can be upsetting, they can usually be treated or controlled. Talk with your doctor or nurse about ways to relieve discomfort.
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