What Happens During Radiation Therapy for Uterine Cancer
Radiation therapy for uterine sarcoma and endometrial cancer is often very similar. The type and dose of the radiation depend on the type and stage of tumor. You can get external radiation or intracavitary (internal) radiation as an outpatient at a hospital or a clinic. External beam radiation may come from a machine called a linear accelerator. Intracavitary radiation (also called brachytherapy) is administered as radioactive seeds or rods placed into the vaginal or uterine cavity for a period of time. Some patients will receive both.
A specialist doctor called a radiation oncologist decides where you need radiation and how much you need. Then a specialist called a radiation therapist gives you the radiation.
Preparing for radiation treatment
Before your first external beam radiation treatment, you’ll have an appointment to plan exactly where on your body the radiation beam needs to be directed. This process is called simulation. The appointment may take up to 2 hours. Here’s what you can expect to happen during it:
Intracavitary radiation also requires imaging scans that help the radiation therapy team plan the treatment, but it does not require a simulation.
What happens during radiation
External beam radiation is administered in divided doses. On the days you get radiation, you’ll lie on a table while the machine is placed over you. You may have to wear a hospital gown. The experience is a lot like getting an X-ray, only it lasts longer. The whole process lasts about 15 to 30 minutes, with about 1 to 5 minutes spent actually getting the radiation. A radiation therapist may use special shields to cover parts of your body that don’t need to get the radiation. Or the machine itself may have built-in shields to protect you. The therapist will line up the machine exactly with the areas that were marked during the simulation.
The therapist will leave the room to turn on the machine. You will be able to talk to the therapist over an intercom. You can’t feel radiation. It is painless. You may hear whirring or clicking noises as the machine moves.
You will most likely get radiation treatments every day for 5 days in a row, Monday through Friday, for about 4 to 6 weeks.
You will not be radioactive afterward, so don’t worry about that.
Intracavitary radiation is administered as an outpatient in an outpatient surgery suite, usually in the hospital. It is placed in 1 procedure and removed in another. The period of time it remains in place is predetermined by your treatment team. You may be given instructions to limit radiation exposure to others.