Radiation therapy for ovarian cancer

Radiation therapy (also known as radiotherapy) uses x-rays to damage cancer cells. The radiation is targeted at cancer sites in your body, with the aim of reducing the cancer’s growth and improving symptoms.

Radiation therapy for ovarian cancer may be used to treat the pelvis or other sites of cancer that have spread further away. It may be used after chemotherapy or on its own as a palliative treatment.

Before treatment starts, the radiation oncology team will explain the treatment schedule and the possible side effects. You will lie on a table under a machine that delivers radiation to the affected parts of the body. You will not feel anything during the treatment, which will take only a few minutes each time. You may be in the room for a total of 10–20 minutes for each appointment.

The number of radiation therapy sessions you have will depend on the type and size of the cancer. You may have a few treatments or daily treatment for several weeks.

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Side effects of radiation therapy

The side effects of radiation therapy vary. Most are temporary and disappear a few weeks or months after treatment. Radiation therapy for ovarian cancer is usually given over the abdominal area, which can irritate the bowel and bladder.

Common side effects include feeling tired, diarrhoea, needing to pass urine more often and burning when you pass urine (cystitis), and a slight burn to the skin around the treatment site. More rarely, you may have some nausea or vomiting. If this occurs, you will be prescribed medicine to control it. For more information, see Radiation therapy.


Video: What is radiation therapy?

Watch this short video to learn more about radiation therapy.


This information was last reviewed in April 2018
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