You can have external or internal radiotherapy for cervical cancer. Find out more about how you have this.
Radiotherapy uses high energy waves to treat cancer.
External radiotherapy treatment
External radiotherapy treatment means the beams are directed at your body from a machine called a linear accelerator (LINAC). You have this treatment in the hospital radiotherapy department.
You usually have this once a day from Monday to Friday with a rest over the weekend. External radiotherapy treatment for early cervical cancer usually lasts for 5 weeks.
Before your planning scan and daily treatment you might be asked to drink a few cups of water. This is so you have a full bladder which is roughly the same size everyday. You may need to have a empty bowel as well.
Internal radiotherapy treatment
Internal radiotherapy is also called brachytherapy. Brachytherapy means a radioactive source is put into your vagina and up into the womb. This stays in for either hours or days to give an extra boost of treatment to the cancer itself and the area close by.
You usually have both internal and external radiotherapy for early cervical cancer. Sometimes doctors use radiotherapy after surgery.
Before starting radiotherapy you have a blood test to check for anaemia. Anaemia is common if you have been bleeding from the vagina. You may need to have a blood transfusion before you start your treatment.
Radiotherapy and chemotherapy together
For the past few years, combined radiotherapy and chemotherapy (chemoradiotherapy) is the recommended treatment for most women with a cervical cancer that is larger than 4cm, or has spread beyond the cervix. Research has shown that this combination of treatment is more likely to cure a cervical cancer than radiotherapy alone.
For chemoradiotherapy, you have external radiotherapy as normal, but you have chemotherapy at the same time. Most often, this means an injection of a chemotherapy drug once a week throughout your course of radiotherapy.