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What Happens During Internal Radiation Therapy for Vaginal Cancer

What Happens During Internal Radiation Therapy for Vaginal Cancer

Internal radiation therapy uses needles or containers that are filled with radioactive material and placed inside your body near the tumor.

This type of radiation is also called brachytherapy.

There are 2 types of internal radiation therapy:

  • Intracavitary radiation. This uses radioactive material that is inside a cylindrical container or tube that is put in the vagina.

  • Interstitial radiation. This uses needles that contain radioactive material and are placed into the tumor and nearby tissues. 

  • Brachytherapy. This is usually delivered in 1 of 2 ways. Low-dose rate (LDR) is generally over a period of 48 to 72 hours and requires a hospital stay. High-dose rate (HDR) is generally over a few hours and does not require a hospital stay. 

Here’s how internal radiation works:

  • You may have tests ahead of time to determine where the radioactive material should be placed. Then, the radiation oncologist or gynecologic oncologist places radioactive material inside your vagina.

  • The material stays in place for a period of time to kill the abnormal cells. How long it stays in place varies, depending on the stage and location of your cancer as well as your overall treatment plan.

  • The doctor removes the radioactive material before you go home.

  • Radiation does not stay in your body after the treatment is done. You are not radioactive, so you do not pose a risk to those around you. However, while receiving treatment, your doctor may want you to remain a certain distance from visitors and refrain from having pregnant women and children come to visit. You should discuss any precautions needed with your health care provider prior to treatment. 

Where you have the treatment and whether you stay in the hospital depends on your treatment plan and the facilities available in your area.

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