MRO–Advanced radiation therapy that’s close to home
About 3.5% of all new cancer cases in the U.S. are uterine cancer, according to statistics from The National Institute of Health.
At Minneapolis Radiation Oncology, we understand the uncertainty that comes with a uterine cancer diagnosis and the impact it can have on your life, your fertility, and the psychological health of you and your family.
Minneapolis Radiation Oncology is the Twin Cities’ leading provider of advanced radiation therapy for cancer. Our MRO radiation oncologists provide a level of expertise that comes only from working with cancer patients and radiation cancer treatments every day. And we’ve established a reputation as trusted allies in the fight against cancer. Since 1981, MRO clinics have treated over 100,000 patients – more than any other clinics in Minnesota.
We bring advanced radiation therapy close to home, with 11 locations across the Twin Cities, Brainerd Lakes Area, and Western Wisconsin. Count on the cancer specialists at MRO to be here for you, with care, precision, and compassion.
“I am a firm believer in the power of technology and radiation therapy
to give patients their best options for fighting cancer.”
Charles Shideman, MD
MRO | Regions
What is uterine cancer?
The uterus, or womb, is a muscular, pear-shaped organ where a baby grows when a woman is pregnant. When cells grow out of control in the uterus, it is called uterine cancer.
The most common type of uterine cancer is endometrial cancer, which forms in the lining of the uterus, called the endometrium. Uterine sarcoma is less common, and forms in the muscles or other tissues of the uterus.
Uterine cancer usually occurs after menopause, but it may also occur around the time that menopause begins. Recent breakthroughs have led to many advances in personalized approaches to gynecological oncology.
Why choose radiation therapy for uterine cancer?
For endometrial cancer, radiation therapy is used most often after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells. If your treatment plan includes radiation after surgery, you will have several weeks to heal before treatment.
Radiation may be used to treat uterine cancer:
- Before surgery to make it easier to remove all of the cancer.
- After surgery to help lower the chance of the cancer coming back in the pelvis.
- As the main treatment in a woman who can’t have surgery because of other health problems.
- To shrink a tumor that’s causing pain and swelling by pressing on nerves and blood vessels.
Radiation technology is proven effective
At MRO, we use radiation, or radiotherapy, to destroy cancer cells with radiation. Using state-of-the-art imaging technologies such as MRI, CT, and PET, your MRO care team can pinpoint radiation doses down to the millimeter.
The way the radiation therapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated. But each treatment directs precise doses of radiation at cancer cells, which are more susceptible to radiation than healthy cells. Like an x-ray, radiation therapy is painless. For patients who receive external beam radiation therapy, there’s no fear of becoming radioactive during or after treatment.
Radiation treatment options for uterine cancer
For uterine cancer treatment we provide two types of radiation therapy:
External beam radiation therapy (EBRT): This is the most common form of radiation treatment. EBRT delivers radiation to the uterine cancer cells from outside the body using a machine called a linear accelerator to direct high-energy radiation beams to the exact location of the cancer.
High-dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy: Brachytherapy 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 MRO radiation oncologists to complete the brachytherapy procedure in minutes.
In some cases, both internal brachytherapy and external beam radiation therapy are used. In those instances, the external beam radiation is usually given first, followed by the brachytherapy. The stage and grade of your particular cancer dictates which area needs to be treated with radiation therapy and which types of radiation we use.
Using our precise radiation treatments directly on your tumor or tumor bed, the MRO radiation oncologists are able to reduce the risk of side effects.
Your treatment is a team effort
When you talk to your doctor about treatment options, ask if MRO is the right choice for you. We’ll start with a consultation appointment lasting one to two hours. During that time, you’ll meet with a radiation oncologist.
Once the radiation oncologist has examined you, he or she will discuss treatment options and the pros and cons of radiation treatment. A radiation therapy nurse will also be there to help explain treatment, discuss how sessions are scheduled, and provide information on how to take care of yourself during treatment.
Since radiotherapy for uterine cancer requires the utmost precision, you’ll also go through a simulation at the MRO Therapy Center. Using image mapping as a guide, your care team will position you as you would be for treatment and take measurements to build a targeted treatment plan and pinpoint the radiation for the best possible outcome.
For questions to ask your provider, see our FAQ page.
We make treatment as easy as possible, so you can get back to living your life
Although every woman’s journey is unique, most receive treatments five days a week for one to eight weeks. Your own treatment schedule will be specifically tailored to you, at the MRO clinic that’s most convenient for you.
Your MRO radiation oncologist will determine the dosage, technique, and type of radiation to be used for your treatment. You’ll also meet with your physician each week to monitor progress and touch base with your nurse, who can answer any questions you may have.
Managing side effects of radiation therapy for uterine cancer
Like treatments for any serious disease, there are risks and side effects involved with radiation therapy. Most side effects go away in the weeks or months after treatment, while others may not even appear until years later. Your oncologist will not advise you to have any treatment unless the potential benefits (controlling cancer or relieving symptoms) are greater than the known risks.
During your uterine cancer radiation treatment, you may experience one or more of the following side effects. If you experience these or other side effects, contact your MRO care team.
Short-term side effects
These side effects are more common with external beam radiation than with brachytherapy, and often go away after several weeks.
- Skin changes, which can range from mild redness to peeling and blistering
- Irritation or bleeding in the intestine
- Irritation of the vagina, leading to discomfort and a discharge
- Low blood counts, causing anemia (low red blood cells) and leukopenia (low white blood cells), which usually return to normal within a few weeks after radiation is stopped.
Long-term side effects
- Radiation therapy may cause changes to the lining of the vagina, leading to vaginal dryness.
- Premature menopause may occur due to damage to the ovaries. This is not an issue for most women treated for endometrial cancer because they have already gone through menopause, either naturally or as a result of surgery to treat the cancer.
- Lymphedema, or swelling, may not start for several months or even years after treatment ends.
- Problems with the bladder (radiation cystitis) or bowel (radiation proctitis).
- Radiation to the pelvis can weaken the bones, leading to fractures.
Contact your doctor immediately if you’ve been treated for endometrial cancer and have pelvic pain. It may be caused by a fracture, recurrent cancer, or other serious conditions.
“When I first meet patients, there are a lot of questions about their cancer. ‘What is radiation treatment?’ ‘What could the outcomes be?’ Empowering patients with answers to their questions, so they know exactly what they are facing and that we are treating aggressively to maximize their best possible outcome turns fear into confidence.”
Jeffrey Herman, MD
MRO | Unity
Since each cancer is different, your treatment schedule is specifically tailored to you. Typically, treatments take place five days a week, Monday through Friday, lasting between 5-30 minutes. MRO has 11 locations across the Twin Cities, Brainerd Lakes Area, and Western Wisconsin, so it’s easy to find treatment near you.
External beam radiation therapy is often given five days a week for four to six weeks. The skin around the treatment area is carefully marked with permanent ink or tiny tattoos. A custom-made mold for your pelvis and lower back is sometimes used to make sure you’re in the exact same position for each treatment. Each treatment takes less than a half-hour, but daily visits to the radiation center are needed.
How to care for yourself during treatment
During treatment, there are ways to help your body stay strong:
Get plenty of rest, don’t push yourself too hard.
Eat a healthy diet and drink plenty of fluids.
Treat your skin in the treatment area with care. Clean the area with warm water and mild soap, avoid hot or cold packs, and check with your care team before using lotions or ointments.
Talk to your doctor about any medications or supplements you are taking to make sure they are safe to use during treatment.
Follow your doctor’s orders and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Find a support group or seek out help to cope with the stress of your cancer diagnosis and treatment.
“Being a cancer survivor has helped me be a better radiation therapist and a source of tips for patients in managing side effects. I’ve learned gratitude from my patients and from my own journey. I don’t take anything for granted, I don’t procrastinate on going for my goals anymore, and I’m thankful every day.”
Julie | MRO Radiation Therapist and cancer survivor
Life after treatment
Once your treatment is complete, you’ll have follow-up appointments to check the results of treatment and monitor your health over the coming months.
It’s typical to need extra rest. So, listen to your body, nap when you need to and get as much sleep at night as you can. Be gentle with your skin in the treatment area. Any skin irritation should go away in several weeks.
If you continue to have pain after radiation therapy, you can use an over-the-counter pain medicine. Avoid using a heating pad or warm compress on any area treated by radiation. If you continue to have severe pain, contact your MRO care team and ask about medications or other methods of relief.
For more information, visit our resources page.