Radiotherapy for womb cancer

Radiotherapy uses high-energy x-rays to destroy cancer cells, while doing as little harm as possible to normal cells.

You may have radiotherapy:

  • after surgery, to reduce the risk of cancer coming back (adjuvant therapy)
  • to help relieve symptoms (palliative radiotherapy).

Radiotherapy for womb cancer can be given externally or internally, or as a combination of both. Some women are given radiotherapy along with chemotherapy. This is called chemoradiation. Your cancer specialist (clinical oncologist) can discuss this treatment in detail with you and answer any questions you have.

Having radiotherapy for womb cancer means that you won’t be able to have children. Although most women who have womb cancer are older, it does occasionally affect younger women. If your fertility is a concern for you, talk to your cancer specialist before your treatment starts.

Radiotherapy

You may have radiotherapy:

  • to reduce the risk of the cancer coming back in the pelvic area after surgery (called adjuvant radiotherapy)
  • instead of surgery (if your doctor doesn’t think a general anaesthetic or an operation is suitable for you, or you have decided against having surgery)
  • to try to cure a cancer that comes back at the top of the vagina or in the pelvic area after surgery
  • to treat any cancer that wasn’t completely removed with surgery.

We have more detailed information about radiotherapy and its side effects.


Adjuvant radiotherapy

Your cancer specialist may talk to you about having radiotherapy after surgery. It’s given to reduce the risk of the cancer coming back in the pelvic area. Your specialist team will look at the stage, the grade and type of womb cancer you have before discussing this with you.

Some women with stage 1 cancer have a higher risk of the cancer coming back. In this situation, your doctors may suggest you have radiotherapy to reduce your risk. Or they may advise that you have regular checks for signs of the cancer coming back in the pelvis (called observation). Most women with stage 2 or 3 womb cancer have radiotherapy after surgery.

Adjuvant radiotherapy may be given internally or externally, or as a combination of both. Some women are given radiotherapy along with chemotherapy. This is called chemoradiation.

Your specialist will talk to you about the benefits and disadvantages of radiotherapy in your situation. They will explain the side effects you’re likely to get and the possible long-term effects.


Radiotherapy for symptom control (palliative radiotherapy)

If the cancer has spread in the pelvic area or to other parts of your body, such as the bones, you may be given radiotherapy to shrink the cancer or to control the symptoms. This can usually be given over 1–5 sessions, but more may be needed depending on your situation. If you have any side effects of palliative radiotherapy, they will probably be mild.


Effects on fertility

Radiotherapy for womb cancer means that you won’t be able to have children. Although most women who have womb cancer are older, it does occasionally affect younger women.

If your fertility is a concern for you, talk to your cancer specialist before your treatment starts. Fertility is a very important part of many people’s lives, and not being able to have children can seem especially hard when you already have cancer to cope with.

Occasionally women may have their eggs removed and stored before having radiotherapy. This may happen if they want to consider trying to have a child through surrogacy in the future. Surrogacy is when another woman carries a baby for you.

We have more information about fertility after cancer treatment.

Back to Radiotherapy explained

Possible side effects

You may develop some side effects during or after radiotherapy, but there are often ways to manage these.

Who might I meet?

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