Among women who received post-surgery radiation therapy for endometrial cancer, vaginal brachytherapy (a type of internal radiation therapy) resulted in better quality of life than external beam radiation therapy. These results were presented at the European Cancer Conference (ECCO 14).
Some patients with endometrial cancer receive adjuvant (post-surgery) treatment with radiation therapy. Two different approaches to delivering radiation therapy for endometrial cancer are external beam radiation therapy and vaginal brachytherapy. Vaginal brachytherapy is a type of internal radiation therapy in which radioactive material is placed within the vagina.
To compare vaginal brachytherapy to external beam radiation therapy, researchers in The Netherlands conducted a clinical trial among 427 women with endometrial cancer. The trial was restricted to selected patients with Stage IB, IC, or IIA cancer. All patients underwent total abdominal hysterectomy and bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy (surgical removal of the uterus, the ovaries, and the fallopian tubes).
The study was designed to address both treatment effectiveness and impact on quality of life. The presentation at the European Cancer Conference focused on the quality of life results; effectiveness results are not yet available.
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- In both groups of patients, quality of life was lowest after surgery and then gradually improved.
- From six months onwards, patients who had received vaginal brachytherapy reported better overall quality of life than patients who received external beam radiation therapy.
- Patients who had received vaginal brachytherapy reported fewer bowel symptoms (such as diarrhea) and less fatigue than patients who received external beam radiation therapy.
- There was no significant difference between the groups in sexual symptoms (such as vaginal dryness) or sexual interest.
While these results suggest that vaginal brachytherapy results in better quality of life than external beam radiation therapy, effectiveness information is not yet available from this study. This information will be available in the future, and will help guide treatment decisions for women with intermediate-risk endometrial cancer.
Reference: Putter H, Schultz IM, Jobsen JJ et al. Quality of life after radiotherapy for endometrial cancer: first results from the randomized PORTEC2 trial. Presented at ECCO-14 – The European Cancer Conference. Barcelona, Spain, September 23-27, 2007. Abstract O#5000.