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Overview

Gynecological cancers are cancers of a woman’s reproductive organs, which include the cervix, ovaries, uterus, fallopian tubes, vagina and vulva. The incidence of gynecological cancers is high with more than 98,000 women diagnosed each year.

Brachytherapy plays a significant role in the treatment of these cancers. It is a type of radiation therapy, which places a radioactive source close to, or inside, the tumor or area of concern. This procedure enables the radiation oncologist and team to deliver a high dose of radiation to the tumor while minimizing the radiation dose to healthy tissue. The dose may be adjusted to avoid overdosing areas such as the bladder and rectum.

Gynecological brachytherapy can be delivered in one session, where the radiation is given off in many hours, which is also known as low-dose rate (LDR) radiation. Or it can be delivered in multiple sessions, each only a few minutes, which is also known as high-dose rate (HDR) radiation. HDR treatments are usually, though not always, done as outpatient procedures. LDR treatments are usually performed while the patient is hospitalized.

With gynecological cancers, HDR is generally the preferred method of delivery, since it shows similar outcomes to the use of LDR, but because HDR is delivered more quickly, the patient and medical team receive less exposure to radiation.