Overview

Although less commonly used in the treatment of ovarian cancer in the United States, radiation therapy uses high energy x­-rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. It is more often used in other parts of the body where cancer has spread.

External Beam Radiation Therapy

This procedure focuses a beam on the area where recurrent ovarian cancer has been found, using a machine outside of the body. External beam radiation is the main type of radiation therapy used to treat ovarian cancer. Treatments are usually given five days a week for several weeks, with each radiation session lasting only a few minutes.

The radiation passes through the skin and other tissues before it reaches the tumor. This may cause side effects such as:

  • Skin irritation that can make skin look and feel sunburned, with blisters and/or peeling at the site of the treatment
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea

These side effects will start to improve once treatment is finished. Over time, any changes to the skin will usually return to normal about 12 months after the final treatment. It’s important to discuss all side effects with the healthcare team, and there may be ways to relieve some of the pain or irritation.

While there are other radiation therapy procedures, external beam radiation therapy is the only one that is currently used in the treatment for ovarian cancer.

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