Vaginal Brachytherapy Treatment
This handout explains what will happen
during your radiation treatment to the
vagina. If you have any questions, please
speak with your doctor or nurse.
What Is Brachytherapy?
Brachytherapy is a method of giving
radiation to a small area. This involves the
placement of one or two small hollow tubes
inside the vagina. These tubes are called
applicators. A radioactive source will travel
into the applicator from a storage unit
through thin cables. It will remain in the
vaginal applicators for 3-15 minutes, until
the correct amount of radiation is given.
Your doctor prescribes the dose of radiation
The treatment is given in Radiotherapy.
Most patients will have three to five
treatments with one or two treatments each
week. Each treatment takes about one hour.
Some patients will have this treatment
while getting daily external radiation
treatments. Only one type of treatment,
internal or external, is given per day.
What Do the Applicators Look Like?
The applicators vary in size and shape.
Your doctor will choose the one that fits you
best. Below is a drawing of the applicators
most often used. The drawing also shows
where they are placed.
Before the Procedure
If you take prescription medicines you may
take them as usual. You may eat your
normal diet, but avoid eating a large heavy
meal before the treatment. You will be lying
flat on your back for about an hour.
Arrive at the hospital about 15 minutes
before your scheduled treatment. Park in the
main hospital ramp and bring your parking
card in with you. Check in at the Clinics
Registration desk on Main Street (2nd Floor).
You may have your parking card stamped so
you will not need to pay for parking when
you leave. The person at this desk can also
tell you how to get to Radiotherapy. It is in
module K4 in the basement (K4/B).
When you are in the department, please
check in at the Radiotherapy reception desk
and then have a seat in the main waiting
room. This is where your family or friends
can wait for you during your treatment. A
member of the staff will take you to the
Before the treatment, you will be asked to
change into a gown. You will need to
remove all clothing from your waist to your
feet. You may wish to bring sandals or
slippers to keep your feet warm. We have a
small stereo in the room for your use. You
may also bring in your own music, such as
an iPod to help you relax during the
Vaginal Radiation Procedure
1. Exam and placement of the
applicator. This part takes about 10-15
Fabric stockings will be placed for
comfort and warmth. During the
treatment you will lie on your back with
your legs up in knee rests. You will
remain like this until the treatment is
over. The doctors first will perform a
pelvic exam to decide the size and shape
of applicator to use.
The proper applicator is placed inside
the vagina. This may cause some
pressure inside the vagina, but should
not cause pain. If you have problems
with pelvic exams (severe pain or
anxiety), please tell your doctor or nurse
before the day of the treatment.
2. The radiation treatment. This part
takes about 5-20 minutes.
Before the treatment starts, cables from
the treatment machine will be attached to
the applicator. During the treatment, the
radioactive source will slide inside the
applicator and stay there for the proper
amount of time. You will not feel the
treatment as it is given. You may hear a
clicking or humming noise from the
treatment machine. You will be alone in
the room during the treatment, but we
will be able to see and hear you. We can
also talk to you through a speaker. After
the treatment is finished, the applicator
will be removed, the area cleaned. You
will be shown back to the changing
room. Once you have finished changing
you may leave. Other than no driving if
you took a sedative, there are no other
What to Expect after the Treatment
1. Some very light vaginal bleeding,
spotting or discharge is normal. This
should stop within a day or two.
2. You may have some burning or irritation
when you first urinate after the
treatment. Drink 8-10 glasses of fluid
(water is preferred) each day for the next
3. You may have mild diarrhea. This may
be due to irritation to the rectum from
the radiation or anxiety from the
4. You may feel tired after the treatment if
you took a medicine for relaxation. This
is a short-acting side effect of the muscle
5. You are not radioactive after the
treatment, only during the treatment.
There are no restrictions for you being
around other people or pets.
6. You will be given a vaginal dilator or
vibrator, during one of your treatment
visits. You will need to use this at home
to prevent the vagina from getting tight
and narrow. You will receive a handout
about this and your doctor or nurse will
teach you how to use it.
7. It is safe to have intercourse between
treatments; unless, your surgeon has told
you not to do so until you are fully
healed. Please follow your surgeon’s
guidelines, which are based upon your
healing and length of time since surgery.
8. Call your Radiotherapy doctor at (608)
263-8500 for any of the symptoms listed
ξ Fever above 100 θF
ξ Abdominal pain
ξ Burning with urination or blood
in the urine lasting more than 24
Your doctor will tell you when he or she
would like you to return for a follow-up
visit. Often, it is one to two months after
your last treatment.
If you have any questions or concerns about
this treatment, please be sure to talk with us.
You may talk with your Radiotherapy doctor
or a member of the health care team by
(608) 263-8500. If you call when the clinic
is closed, your call will be forwarded to the
answering service. Ask for the Radiotherapy
doctor on call. Give the operator your name
and phone number with the area code. The
doctor will call you back.
If you live out of the area, please call 1-800-
Your Doctor is __________________________________ Phone Number __________________
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright ©10/2016. University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#5492.