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I have had surgery to remove my womb cancer and now been told I need radiotherapy. What does this mean?

Cancer of the womb (uterus) usually refers to a malignant growth of menstrual tissue. There are many different types. The type and length of time that it has been growing can affect the possibility that tumour cells have escaped from the womb before it was removed. They could have entered your body and could grow elsewhere. The probability of your tumor growing elsewhere (metastasis) can be estimated by comparing your pattern of cancer in the womb with a database of thousands of similar cases who lived many years ago. We know how many of these women had recurrent disease so we can estimate your chance of developing a recurrence.

If your chances are low, you will not need additional treatment because the toxicity also known as side effects exceed any benefits. If your risk is high, you may choose to have additional treatment to reduce the chance of the tumour recurring. Radiotherapy undoubtedly reduces the ability of a tumours to regrow and this reduces your chance that your first detectable recurrence will be in a part of your body that was treated with radiotherapy. However, most of the evidence suggests it will make little difference to your chance of cure. If you decline radiotherapy after surgery, you will still have the option of additional treatment if the cancer returns. Nevertheless, many women accept the offer of radiotherapy to reduce the chance that it will recur in the area they have previously had radiotherapy.

No woman should think that she has to have radiotherapy. It is a choice. A woman can only make this choice once she has been told about the long term side effects and the risk of her radiotherapy having a serious complication.