The frequency, duration, and timing of your external radiation treatments depends on the type of gynecologic cancer you have and the type of radiation therapy you need:
- Many people are treated once a day, Monday through Friday, over several weeks. Your schedule depends on your diagnosis.
- The duration (total number of treatments) of your radiation therapy can vary, depending on your diagnosis and treatment goals.
- Most of each session will be spent getting your body into the correct position. The actual radiation treatment lasts just a few minutes. Total treatment time (door-to-door) is typically 30 to 45 minutes.
No matter what you experience, your care team can help ease the side effects of treatment. At least once a week, your radiation oncology team will meet with you to discuss your progress and any side affects you may have.
Radiation therapy for gynecologic cancer: How it works
Radiation therapy uses high-energy radiation such as X-rays to destroy cancer cells. Our radiation oncologists (the doctors who specialize in treating cancer with radiation therapy) use the most advanced equipment and techniques. They target radiation beams to tumors or areas where cancer cells may hide after surgery, providing powerful treatment while minimizing damage to healthy tissue nearby.
Radiation therapy is considered local treatment because it focuses on the tumor or cancerous area, not on cancer in other parts of the body. The treatment goals of radiation therapy are to:
- Kill cancer cells and prevent them from spreading
- Destroy any cancer cells that may remain after other treatment. Radiation therapy given after surgery or another primary treatment is called adjuvant therapy.
- Lower the risk of cancer coming back (recurring) after treatment, either at the original tumor site (or nearby) or in other parts of the body
- Shrink or slow the growth of cancerous tumors that are inoperable (cannot be removed with surgery)
Your remaining treatments
During your first appointment, your team will give you the schedule for the rest of your treatments:
- The exact length of time for each treatment may vary from day to day, but commonly will last only 15 to 20 minutes.
- Your radiation oncologist may order additional imaging to be done during some of your appointments.
Weekly visits with your doctor
Your radiation oncologist will meet with you once a week during your series of radiation treatment. This visit will take place at one of your scheduled treatment sessions and is called an on-treatment visit (OTV).
- On the day of your OTV, your radiation therapist will take you to the nursing area after your radiation treatment.
- A nurse will take your vital signs and weight.
- You will meet with a nurse and your radiation oncologist to review your radiation treatment. We will help you manage any side affects you may have. If you have any problems or symptoms on another treatment day, you can ask the therapist to call the nurse or doctor to see you.
Published July 2018
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