January 20, 2021
Dr Shridhar PS, Senior Consultant Radiation Oncology
Cervical cancer is a growing health burden in developing countries like India. Early diagnosis and the right treatment approach is the key to successful cervical cancer treatment. Radiation therapy or simply, radiotherapy is one of the preferred treatment methods for cervical cancer – the other two being chemotherapy and surgery.
There are various factors that are to be considered while devising a treatment plan for cervical cancer patients. These factors include the stage of cancer, the location, the aggressiveness, the age of the patient and the overall health of the patient. Radiation therapy for cervical cancer is opted in all stages of cancer. Usually, radiation therapy is combined with chemotherapy and surgery to enhance the overall efficacy of cervical cancer treatment.
Using Radiation Therapy for Cervical Cancer Treatment
The primary goal of radiation therapy in cervical cancer treatment is to kill the tumour cells using powerful radiation in the form of X-rays or proton beams.
Radiation therapy is used in combination with other cancer treatment modalities like chemotherapy and surgery. In early stages of cervical cancer, radiation therapy is combined with surgery – where the tumour is surgically removed first and radiation therapy is delivered later to ensure that all tumour cells are destroyed. In relatively advanced stages, radiation therapy is combined with chemotherapy to destroy the cancer cells at the target site and in the regions where cancer has spread.
In advanced stages, radiation therapy is also used to shrink the tumour size and reduce the pain and other symptoms caused due to the tumour.
How Does Radiation Therapy Work for Cervical Cancer?
Cervical Cancer management through radiation therapy has come a long way over the years. In the past, patients were hesitating to undergo radiation therapy fearing the temporary side effects that the treatment comes with. However, with recent advances in the technology, the radiation delivery can be precisely targeted, which helps in reducing the damage to the healthy tissues surrounding the tumour.
Radiation therapy for cervical cancer treatment is delivered through two methods: external beam radiation therapy and internal beam radiation therapy (brachytherapy).
External Beam Radiation Therapy (EBRT): As the name says, during EBRT, the radiation is delivered to the tumour site externally, through a linear accelerator or linac.
Internal Beam Radiation Therapy (IBRT): During the IBRT or Brachytherapy, the radiation is delivered by placing a radiation source inside the body, either inside or next to the tumour. It delivers high-dose radiation to the tumour while causing least damage to the surrounding tissues.
Key Advantages of Radiation Therapy for Cervical Cancer
Some of the major advantages associated with radiation therapy for cervical cancer include:
Reduced Damage to The Surrounding Tissues: Radiation therapy carefully targets the tumour and delivers radiation accordingly and thereby reduces the damage to the surrounding tissues.
Faster Recovery: Since radiation therapy is a non-invasive procedure and comes with high-precision, patients recover relatively at a faster rate from treatment-related illness or disability.
No Blood Loss: Radiation therapy does not cause blood loss or other serious health complications, which are commonly seen in other treatment modalities.
Improved Quality of Life: Through faster recovery, reduced treatment complications and higher success rates, radiation therapy promises improved quality of life among cervical cancer patients.