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What Are the Long-Term Side Effects of Radiation Treatment for Cervical Cancer?

Jul 27,2023 | YILING

   What are the long-term side effects of radiation treatment for cervical cancer? Cervical cancer is a serious disease that affects millions of women worldwide. Radiation therapy has proven to be an effective approach to combat this disease, but it is important to consider the possible long-term side effects of this form of treatment. This article discusses the various side effects that radiation therapy for cervical cancer can have on a patient's life. 

What is the Radiation Therapy for Cervical Cancer?


Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy may be used, depending on the stage of cervical cancer. As part of primary care. Radiation alone or radiation therapy after surgery is the preferred treatment for some stages of cervical cancer. At other stages, giving radiation therapy and chemotherapy at the same time (called concurrent chemoradiation therapy) is the preferred treatment because chemotherapy enhances the effects of radiation.

It treats cervical cancer that has spread or that has come back after treatment. Radiation therapy can treat cervical cancer that has spread to other organs or tissues. The types of radiation therapy most commonly used to treat cervical cancer are External radiation therapy and brachytherapy. After knowing about the radiation treatment for cervical cancer, let’s see what the long-term side effects of radiation treatment for cervical cancer are in the following.

   The Long-Term Side Effects of Radiation Treatment for Cervical Cancer

   Admittedly, radiation treatment has various long-term side effects for cervical cancer. For those patients, these side effects can occur months to years after treatment.

  1. skin changes

   In general, radiation therapy can make body tissues stiffer and less elastic. Doctors call this fibrosis. Depending on the part of the body to be treated, the effect may last. For example, the skin in the treated area may thicken. 

  1. Vaginal constriction:

   Both EBRT and brachytherapy can cause scar tissue to form in the vagina. Vaginal intercourse can be painful because scar tissue can narrow, inelastic, or even shorten the vagina.

  1. Vaginal dryness:

   Vaginal dryness and painful intercourse can be long-term side effects of radiation therapy. Topical estrogens can help with vaginal dryness and changes in the vaginal lining, especially when pelvic radiation damages the ovaries and leads to premature menopause. Rather than being taken orally, these hormones are usually administered intravaginally and absorbed into the genital area. It comes in the form of gels, creams, rings, and tablets. For more information, see Sex and Cancer Women.

  1. Rectal bleeding/stenosis:

   Radiation to the rectal wall can cause chronic inflammation in that area, which can lead to bleeding and possibly painful rectal stricture. An abnormal opening may form between the rectum and vagina, allowing stool to leak out of the vagina. These problems usually occur within her first three years after radiation therapy. Additional treatment, such as surgery, may be needed to resolve these complications.


  1. Urological problems:

   Pelvic radiation can cause chronic radiation cystitis, hematuria, and an abnormal opening between the bladder and vagina. These side effects may be observed many years after radiation therapy. The effects of treatment may be permanent. It doesn't happen to everyone. It's hard to predict who will get into trouble. You may need to urinate more frequently after any type of radiation therapy for cervical cancer. This treatment may make the bladder less elastic. The result is less stretching and faster satiety. It may also make you more susceptible to urinary tract infections. 

  1. Weak bones:

   Radiation to the pelvis weakens bones and can lead to fractures. Hip fractures are the most common and can occur 2 to 4 years after irradiation. Bone densitometry is recommended to monitor fracture risk.

  1. Swollen legs:

   Radiation to the pelvic lymph nodes can cause problems with the drainage of fluid in the legs. This can lead to severe swelling of the legs, a condition known as lymphedema. 



   By understanding these potential long-term side effects of radiation treatment for cervical cancer, patients and healthcare professionals can work together to reduce side effects and develop improved care strategies for cervical cancer survivors. Apart from the radiation treatment method, patients can take some drugs to relieve the side effects, such as Yangzheng Xiaoji Capsule, which is effective as a cancer adjuvant treatment.