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Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays or particles to destroy cancer cells. Radiation may be used for vaginal cancer:
A combination of external beam radiation therapy and brachytherapy is usually used to treat vaginal cancer.
The amount of radiation given during treatment, and when and how it is given, will be different for each person.
Vaginal cancer is generally treated with external beam radiation therapy. A machine directs radiation to the tumour and some of the surrounding tissue. External beam radiation is used to treat most stages of vaginal cancer. It may be given alone to treat lymph nodes in the groin and pelvis.
Brachytherapy is internal radiation therapy. A radioactive material (radioactive isotope) is placed right into, or very close to, the tumour. Radioactive materials can also be placed in the area from where the tumour was removed. The radiation kills the cancer cells over time.
The radioactive material is placed in a special applicator (cylinder) and inserted into the vagina near the location of the tumour.
Thin radioactive tubes are inserted directly into the tumour and surrounding tissue. The implants can be temporary or permanent:
Either low-dose-rate (LDR) brachytherapy or high-dose-rate (HDR) brachytherapy will be given.
LDR brachytherapy delivers continuous, low doses of radiation over hours or days. The implant often stays in for 1 to 7 days and is then removed. A hospital stay is usually required, and special radiation safety precautions are in place to protect others from being exposed to radiation. Once the implant is removed, the person is not radioactive and can safely be around people.
HDR brachytherapy, also called remote brachytherapy, delivers a single high dose of radiation in a very short period of time. A single treatment usually takes a few minutes. The radioactive material travels from a special machine attached to catheters or needles inserted into the tumour.
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