Uterine Cancer, Endometrial Cancer and Radiation Therapy

Radiation uses high-energy x-rays to destroy cancer cells and shrink tumors. This treatment may be used prior to surgery (called neoadjuvant therapy) or after surgery to destroy remaining cancer cells. Radiation also may be used in patients who are unable to undergo surgery.

External beam radiation is an outpatient treatment delivered by a machine outside the body. This treatment usually is administered 5 days a week for several weeks. Most patients refrain from sexual intercourse during and for several weeks following radiation therapy because contact with the genitals and vagina may be painful.

Internal beam radiation may be administered for 4 to 6 weeks after surgery. In this procedure, which is usually performed in the radiation department of a hospital, a special applicator is used to insert pellets of radioactive material into the upper vagina. In some cases, both external and internal radiation therapies are used.

Side effects of radiation to treat uterine cancer include the following:

  • Diarrhea
  • Dryness, itching, tightening, and burning in the skin of the vagina
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent, painful urination
  • Hair loss (alopecia)
  • Loss of appetite

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 14 Aug 1999

Last Modified: 14 Sep 2015