Radiation therapy is often offered as a treatment for vaginal cancer. Typically, a patient’s radiation therapy plan is created by a multispecialty treatment team, which is often comprised of one or more radiation oncologists, radiation therapists, dosimetrists and physicists. Because this team will need to use existing knowledge and experience to determine the best radiation treatment plan for each patient, it’s especially important for a patient to seek out medical professionals who have specific experience treating vaginal cancers.
Through Moffitt Cancer Center’s gynecologic clinic, patients can work with a multispecialty team of oncologists who exclusively treat cancers of the female reproductive system. If a patient requires radiation therapy, our radiation treatment team will collectively:
- Decide whether external beam radiation therapy (EBRT) or internal radiation therapy (brachytherapy) would be most appropriate. Most patients receive EBRT, although brachytherapy may be offered to patients with early-stage malignancies.
- Determine the appropriate dose of radiation. Ultimately, the goal is to destroy as many cancer cells as possible while minimizing damage to surrounding healthy tissues. Typically, the more extensive the cancer, the higher the dose of radiation needed to effectively treat the lesion.
- Program a linear accelerator (in the case of EBRT) to precisely direct the radiation to the patient’s tumor site. This often involves at least one simulation session, in which the patient is positioned in the linear accelerator for planning purposes, without any radiation actually being used.
- Recommend ways to alleviate any side effects that might occur. For instance, radiation therapy to the pelvic region can irritate the lower digestive tract, leading to diarrhea. Prescription drugs can be provided to address this complication. Other side effects that might occur include vaginal dryness, genital irritation and lymphedema (swelling of the legs and groin).
Work with a patient’s medical oncologists to determine whether chemotherapy should also be provided as part of her vaginal cancer treatment. If so, the team will need to determine whether chemotherapy medications should be administered before or after radiation therapy, as different combinations can produce different results.
Prospective patients do not need to obtain referrals to request radiation treatment for vaginal cancer at Moffitt. To schedule an appointment, call 1-888-663-3488 or submit a new patient registration form online.