Royal Prince Alfred Hospital Royal Prince Alfred Hospital
Radiation Oncology

Vaginal Brachytherapy

Vaginal Vault Brachytherapy is used for post-operative endometrial cancers. It involves the placement of small, hollow tubes inside the vagina. These tubes are called applicators. You will not need an anaesthetic for this; so you will not need to fast prior to treatment. The radioactive source will travel into the applicator from storage through thin cables. The source is left inside the applicators until the correct amount of dose is given (about 5-10 minutes), and is then retracted into a safe within the machine when treatment is completed.

Patients will typically receive four treatments, twice a week (on Tuesdays and Thursdays). Each treatment session takes about 20-30 minutes. Some patients will have this treatment in combination with external beam radiotherapy. Only one type of treatment, internal or external, is given per day.
 
For each treatment, your Radiation Oncologist or Registrar will insert the treatment applicator each day. The applicator may be a little uncomfortable, however if it is too uncomfortable, please let the Radiation Oncologist know as a smaller applicator can be used. The Radiation Therapist and Radiation Oncologist will be inside the room whilst setting you up, however they leave the room whilst the treatment is being delivered. During this time, your Radiation Therapist will be monitoring you through a camera and microphone so if at any time you need to get their attention, you can just wave or call out. You will not feel anything with the treatment; only hear a clicking or humming noise from the machine. It is important to keep still during treatment. After the treatment is complete, your radiation oncologist will remove the applicator and you can go home.
 
There are very few immediate side effects with Vaginal Vault Brachytherapy, however your Radiation Oncologist will discuss these with you. Side effects you may experience include:
  • Vaginal discharge and soreness while you are on treatment. Try to wear loose comfortable cotton underwear. Should you have a severe reaction or discharge, please contact your Radiation Oncologist.
  • A small amount of bleeding immediately after treatment, which is nothing to worry about. However, please contact your Radiation Oncologist if this bleeding continues.
  • Development of scar tissue in your vagina. This can cause narrowing and shortening of your vagina. To help keep your vagina open, dilators should be used. This may make sex uncomfortable or difficult.
    • A plastic or rubber tube shaped device (known as a dilator) is recommended to keep your vagina open. After your last treatment or on your six week follow up appointment, your doctor or nurse will show you how to use it and the importance of a dilator.
    • Water-based vaginal lubricant can help relieve painful irritation. Avoid Vaseline and oil-based lubricants.