To reduce stress and impact on the quality of life, we offer multiple radiation therapy options for cervical cancer.
The cervix is part of the female reproductive system. Cancer of the cervix begins as normal cells transform over time into pre-cancerous and then cancerous cells. Most cervical cancer cases are diagnosed in women under the age of 50 through a regular Pap test. Because it is typically a slow growing cancer it is curable when found early.
It is estimated that more than 12,000 new cases of cervical cancer will be diagnosed in 2012. It is almost always caused by a human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. Women can reduce their risk of cervical cancer by getting the HPV vaccine before they are sexually active. There are typically few symptoms for cervical cancer. Irregular bleeding between menstrual cycles or after menopause or unusually long and heavy menstrual cycles may be some of the rare symptoms.
As with most forms of cancer, the best treatment option depends on the size, location and stage of the disease. Surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy – either alone or in combination — are potentially effective cervical cancer treatments.
There are several different surgical procedures that a surgeon can perform for cervical cancer. Which one may be best for you depends primarily on the stage of the cancer and whether or not you intend to become pregnant. If you intend to have children and have been diagnosed with very early stage cervical cancer, you may decide to remove only the cervix, part of the vagina and the lymph nodes. For more advanced stages, a simple or radical hysterectomy may be necessary.
Your Medical Oncologist or Gynecologic Oncologist may recommend one of three different forms of chemotherapy. Neo-adjuvant or primary systemic chemotherapy is used before radiation or surgery to help shrink the tumor. Adjuvant chemotherapy is used after radiation or surgery to destroy any remaining cancer cells. Systemic chemotherapy circulates the chemotherapy throughout the body via the bloodstream when the cancer is metastatic.
Radiation Therapy in combination with low-dose chemotherapy may be recommended for cervical cancer. Both External Beam Radiation Therapy (EBRT) where radiation is delivered from outside the body, and Internal Radiation Therapy (IRT), where the radiation is delivered via a source implanted within the body, are used as cervical cancer treatments.
3D-Conformal Radiation Therapy and Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) are two forms of External Beam Radiation Therapy. During 3D-Conformal treatments, a device called a “multi-leaf collimator” will shape the individual radiation beams to “conform” to the shape of your tumor according to the data and instructions it receives from the system computer. IMRT uses thousands of radiation “beamlets” from many different angles to deliver a single dose of radiation. The intensity of the “beamlets” can change during the treatment session to modulate the dose, so that the tumor receives a very precise high dose of radiation, while minimizing damage to surrounding, normal tissue.
Before each session, a Radiation Therapist will carefully position you on the treatment table using a body immobilizer for precise body placement. Image guidance will be used to confirm the location of the tumor before the therapy begins. During your treatment sessions, the radiation delivery system will revolve around you, delivering the radiation according to the plan set by your Radiation Oncologist. Each treatment session lasts from 10 to 30 minutes. Typically, you will be scheduled for five sessions a week for four to six weeks. The sessions are pain-free and require no sedation so you can return to your normal activities right away.
Intracavitary High Dose Rate (HDR) Brachytherapy is a form of Internally Delivered Radiation Therapy. With Intracavitary HDR Brachytherapy, slim plastic tubes called catheters are passed through the vagina to the tumor site to deliver radiation from within the body. During treatment, a computer-controlled machine inserts tiny radioactive “pellets” into the catheter to deliver the radiation directly to the tumor. The overall treatment time at the tumor site is 10 to 20 minutes. Your cervical cancer treatment plan may require one session or multiple sessions. The catheters are then removed so that no radioactive material remains in the body. You are free to resume normal activity right after each treatment.