Radiation therapy for ovarian cancer
Also known as radiotherapy, radiation therapy uses a controlled dose of radiation to kill cancer cells or damage them so they cannot grow, multiply or spread. The radiation is usually in the form of x-ray beams.
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When is radiation therapy used?
Radiation therapy is occasionally used to treat ovarian cancer that has spread to the pelvis or to other parts of the body. It may be used after chemotherapy or surgery to help reduce the symptoms of advanced cancer, or on its own as a palliative treatment.
For each radiation therapy session, you will lie on a treatment table under a large 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.
How many radiation therapy sessions you have will depend on the type and size of the cancer and where it is located. You may have a few treatments or daily treatments for a number of weeks.
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. It can also cause infertility.
Common side effects include:
- feeling tired
- needing to pass urine more often and a burning feeling when passing urine (cystitis)
- slight reddening of 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.
Radiation therapy can also have long-term side effects that occur months or years after therapy. This includes scarring of the bladder, vagina and bowel, as well as a very small increase in the risk of cancers in the decades after therapy.
For more on this, see our general section on Radiation therapy.
Video: What is radiation therapy?
Watch this short video to learn more about radiation therapy.
Podcast: Making Treatment Decisions
Download a PDF booklet on this topic.
Dr Nisha Jagasia, Gynaecological Oncologist, Mater Hospital Brisbane, QLD; Sue Hayes, Consumer; Bronwyn Jennings, Gynaecology Oncology Clinical Nurse Consultant, Mater Health, QLD; Dr Andrew Lee, Radiation Oncologist, Canberra Region Cancer Centre and Canberra Hospital, ACT; A/Prof Tarek Meniawy, Medical Oncologist, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, WA; Caitriona Nienaber, Cancer Council WA; Jane Power, Consumer; A/Prof Sam Saidi, Senior Staff Specialist, Gynaecological Oncology, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, NSW.
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