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Uterine cancer and radiation


Uterine cancers can be of two types: endometrial carcinoma (common) and uterine sarcoma (rare). Endometrial carcinoma can often be cured. Uterine sarcoma is often more aggressive and harder to treat.

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About uterine cancer

Recent breakthroughs have led to many advances in personalized approaches to various cancer types, including cancers of the female reproductive system like uterine cancer and endometrial cancer.

At Minneapolis Radiation Oncology, we understand the uncertainty that comes with a uterine cancer diagnosis and the impact it will have on your life, fertility, and psychological health of you and your family. Our radiation oncologists and supportive care teams are committed to helping you understand the complexities of the disease and how radiation treatment may help with your cancer. Our MRO radiation oncologists offer a level of expertise that comes from working exclusively with radiation cancer treatments and patients every day.

The uterus is a hollow, muscular organ where a baby grows and develops throughout pregnancy. Uterine cancer may form in various areas of the uterus, but the majority of these cancers develop in the endometrium, the inner lining of the uterus. This type of cancer is referred to as endometrial carcinoma. Uterine sarcoma is a rarer type of uterine cancer that forms in the tissues of the uterus. The most common sign of uterine cancer is unusual vaginal bleeding.

Types of uterine cancer

The two primary types of uterine cancer, endometrial carcinoma and uterine sarcoma, develop in different parts of the uterus.

Endometrial Carcinoma is the most common type of uterine cancer, which develops in the inner lining of the uterus.

Uterine sarcoma is a more rare type of uterine cancer, and forms in the muscles or other tissues of the uterus.

Cervical cancer develops in the lower part of the uterus, the cervix, and is not a type of uterine cancer.

Radiation treatment options

At MRO we use precise radiation therapy to treat uterine cancer and to fight against the growth of new cancer cells.

Using our precise radiation treatments directly on your tumor or tumor bed, the MRO radiation oncologists are able to use these therapies to reduce the risk of developing common radiation side effects, including issues related to gastrointestinal and sexual function.

We offer two types of uterine cancer radiation therapy:

External beam radiation therapy (EBRT): External beam radiotherapy is the most common form of radiation treatment and delivers high doses of radiation to uterine cancer cells from outside the body, using a variety of machine-based technologies. It uses a machine called a linear accelerator to direct high-energy radiation beams to the exact location of the cancer.

Although each patient’s treatment course is different, most people receive treatments five days a week for 1 to 8 weeks, with breaks on the weekends. Your MRO radiation oncologist will determine the dosage, technique, and type of radiation to be used for your treatment. Patients who receive external beam radiation therapy are not radioactive during or after treatment.

High-dose rate (HDR) brachytherapyBrachytherapy delivers high doses of radiation from implants placed close to, or inside, the tumor(s) or tumor bed in the uterus, cervix, and/or vagina. Devices called high-dose rate (HDR) remote after-loading machines allow radiation oncologists to complete the brachytherapy procedure in just 10 to 20 minutes. In HDR brachytherapy, powerful radioactive sources travel through small tubes to the tumor for the amount of time prescribed by your MRO radiation oncologist. Depending on the area treated, you may receive several HDR treatments over a number of days. This treatment is often used for gynecologic cancers.

Once your treatment is finished, your MRO radiation oncologist will remove the radiation source and the catheter or applicator.

Sometimes both brachytherapy and external beam radiation therapy are used. How much of the pelvis needs to be exposed to radiation therapy and the type(s) of radiation used depend on the extent of the disease.