If you have endometrial cancer, your first treatment is likely to be surgery. Then, after a pathologist examines your cancer, your doctor may recommend that you have radiation therapy. This may be a combination of external-beam radiation therapy and internal radiation therapy.
For a small minority of women with endometrial cancer, doctors may advise against removing the cancer surgically. Your doctor may feel surgery is not the best treatment for you because of the size or location of the cancer or because you have other health problems. In this case, your doctor is likely to recommend that you be treated with radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or both.
External-Beam Radiation Therapy
Typically, external-beam radiation therapy is given five days a week (Monday to Friday) for five to six weeks using a machine called a linear accelerator. The procedure is not painful, and each treatment lasts only about five to seven minutes.
Patients being treated by Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) may receive external-beam radiation therapy for endometrial cancer at these locations:
- SCCA Radiation Oncology at SCCA, under the supervision of UW Medicine radiation oncologist Wui-Jin Koh, MD, who specializes in treating women with gynecologic cancers
- SCCA Radiation Oncology at Northwest Hospital & Medical Center
- Cancer Center at University of Washington Medical Center
Internal Radiation Therapy
Internal radiation therapy, also known as brachytherapy, is a procedure that delivers radiation to a tumor using radioactive material placed inside the body. For endometrial cancer, this means radioactive seeds are sealed in a rod that is inserted into the vagina or uterus.
Depending on your specific situation, you might need a high-dose radiation source that’s inserted for a short time (and then removed). Or you might need a low-dose radiation source that’s inserted and left for two to three days.
For SCCA patients, this type of radiation therapy is done under the supervision of Dr. Koh.
Learn more about external-beam radiation therapy and internal radiation therapy in the section on radiation oncology
Radiation Plus Chemotherapy
Clinical trials are currently underway at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, an SCCA founding organization, and elsewhere to evaluate the combination of radiation therapy plus chemotherapy in the treatment of endometrial cancer. All of our gynecologic oncologists and radiation oncologists are involved in this research.
Side Effects of Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy can cause side effects, which may depend on exactly how and where the radiation is given. Your team at SCCA will talk with you about the specific side effects you might experience, and we will help you prevent, reduce, or manage these effects as best as possible. You can find general information in the symptom management section.