What is radiotherapy?

Radiotherapy treats cancer by using high-energy x-rays, which destroy the cancer cells while doing as little harm as possible to normal cells.

You may have radiotherapy:

  • if you have early or locally advanced cervical cancer
  • after surgery if there is a high risk of your cancer coming back
  • to help relieve symptoms such as bleeding.

Radiotherapy is often given in combination with chemotherapy. This is called chemoradiation.

Radiotherapy for cancer of the cervix can be given in two ways:

You may have a combination of external and internal radiotherapy. Your treatment will usually last for 5–8 weeks. The doctor who plans your treatment will discuss your treatment with you.

Radiotherapy for cervical cancer will affect your ovaries. If you‘re still having periods, radiotherapy will stop your ovaries producing eggs and the hormones oestrogen and progesterone.

This will bring on an early menopause, usually two to three months after your treatment starts. This means you will no longer be able to have children. You should continue to use contraception during this time as it is important not to become pregnant.

Your doctor, radiographer or nurse will discuss this with you before your treatment starts. They will also be able to tell you about treatments to help you cope with menopausal symptoms, and what options might be available if you’d like to have a child in the future. For more information see our fertility and cervical cancer page.

Back to Radiotherapy explained

Possible side effects

There are things you can do to help manage the possible side effects of radiotherapy treatment.

Who might I meet?

You will meet many different specialists before, during and after radiotherapy treatment.

After treatment

It can take time for your body to recover after finishing treatment. Advice and support is always available.