What to Know About Radiation Therapy for Vulvar Cancer

Radiation therapy is one way to treat vulvar cancer. This treatment is also called radiotherapy. Radiation is a local treatment, which means it affects the cancer cells only in the area treated. Radiation is one of the two most common treatments for vulvar cancer. The other is surgery. In many cases, these treatments can cure vulvar cancer.

Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays to control the growth of cancer cells or to shrink a tumor before surgery. This makes it easier to remove the cancer. Your doctor may give you low-dose chemotherapy along with radiation to enhance the radiation's effectiveness. This is called chemoradiation.

For radiation therapy, you see a radiation oncologist. This doctor specializes in the use of radiation to kill cancer cells. He or she decides how often you need radiation and at what dose.

Radiation for vulvar cancer is given from a machine outside the body. This is called external radiation. Radiation may be directed at the vulva, at the area it can spread to in the groin, or to both areas. The person who gives you the radiation is called a radiation therapist. The experience is a lot like getting an X-ray, only it takes longer. Usually, you will have radiation therapy five days a week for several weeks in an outpatient setting.

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