Radiotherapy for Cancer of the Uterus (Womb) Cancer Services Information for Patients

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1 Radiotherapy for Cancer of the Uterus (Womb) Cancer Services Information for Patients i

2 introduction When your consultant talked to you about the treatment options available, the side effects of radiotherapy will have been explained. They are often discussed in terms of early side effects and late side effects. 2

3 Early side effects you may experience Early side effects from radiotherapy to the pelvis happen during your course of treatment and for a short time afterwards. Effects to the skin During radiotherapy, the skin in the treatment area is exposed to radiation. The effect is similar to exposure to the sun - the skin may redden slightly and be drier than usual. Advice: We recommend that you apply moisturiser to the area. Use twice daily from the start of treatment. If the skin breaks and forms moist patches, you will be given an alternative cream. Take a bath or shower every day, keeping the water warm rather than hot. If possible use baby soap or simple soap, do not use shower creams or bubble bath in your water. Pat the area dry with a soft towel, being particularly careful with folds of skin and taking care not to rub. Do not swim if you have visible red or moist skin. Do not use a sunbed or expose the area to sunlight. You should wait for approximately three to four weeks after you have completed your course of treatment before you return to your normal washing routine. The skin reaction can worsen, even though you have finished treatment. 3

4 Early side effects you may experience Effects on the bowel Advice: You may find that you are opening your bowels more often than usual.. You may find that you have diarrhoea, or your tummy may feel bloated and tender. Please inform the radiographers if this occurs. If you normally take laxatives please inform the radiographers. Eat a normal well-balanced diet. We can prescribe medication for diarrhoea if necessary. Effects on the bladder Advice: You may experience a burning sensation on passing urine. You may pass water more frequently. You may need to pass water urgently. We recommend a glass of cranberry juice each day, which is a natural remedy for keeping urinary tract infections at bay. Please note that if you are taking warfarin, you should not drink cranberry juice. You should increase your fluid intake to between two and three litres a day, from the start of your treatment. Alcohol, tea and coffee may irritate the bladder, so these should be drunk in moderation. 4

5 Early side effects you may experience (continued) Vaginal changes As this area is sensitive to radiation, you may experience some vaginal discharge as a result of your treatment. Please tell your radiographer if this becomes offensive, causes irritation, or you are worried. Advice: It is important to keep the vagina as supple as possible to prevent scar tissue forming. Towards the end of your radiotherapy treatment you will be given a specific information leaflet about vaginal dilation, and given advice on how to do this. Changes to your fertility If you have not had your uterus and ovaries removed (hysterectomy and salpingo-oophorectomy), radiotherapy to this area will make you sterile (if you have not already gone through the menopause). It will stop your ovaries producing hormones and your periods will become irregular and then gradually stop over a period of weeks. However, contraception should be used during this time and for at least one year after your periods have stopped to ensure that you do not become pregnant. Tiredness You may feel tired. This may be related to your illness or your treatment. There is no need to alter your lifestyle radically, but be sensible and rest if you feel you need to. 5

6 Late side effects you may experience In a small minority of women, radiotherapy can have long term side effects, or late effects. In the majority of women these side effects are usually mild and might include: Early menopause Loose bowel motions after certain foods A need to empty the bladder more often Vaginal narrowing and dryness Blood in the urine or bowel movements (as the blood vessels can become more fragile after radiotherapy). Report any unusual bleeding to your doctor. A minority of women may have some long term bowel or bladder problems that require medication, a special diet or surgery. Some women who have had radiotherapy and surgery may have some swelling of the legs. If this occurs we can give you more treatment and specific advice. A few women may experience long-term vaginal narrowing. 6

7 Questions I would like to ask 7

8 If you would like this information in another language or format, please contact the service equality manager on Oncology Patient Information Group Radiotherapy for Womb Cancer Edition 7. August For review August 2017 CAN

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