Radiation Therapy for Gestational Trophoblastic Disease

Radiation therapy uses focused high-energy x-rays that penetrate the body to reach and destroy cancerous cells.

Radiation isn't often used to treat gestational trophoblastic (jeh-STAY-shuh-nul troh-fuh-BLAS-tik) disease (GTD), unless it has spread and is not responding to chemotherapy (chemo). Radiation may then be used to treat sites where the cancer may be causing pain or other problems. It may also be used when GTD has spread to the brain.

The type of radiation therapy most often used in treating GTD is called external beam radiation therapy. In this type of radiation therapy, the radiation is aimed at the cancer from a machine outside the body. Having this type of radiation therapy is much like having a diagnostic x-ray, except that each treatment lasts longer and the treatments are usually repeated daily over several weeks.

Side effects of radiation can depend on what area is treated and can include:

  • Nausea and vomiting, which tends to be worse if the abdomen (belly) or pelvis is treated
  • Skin changes, ranging from mild redness to blistering and peeling
  • Hair loss in the area being treated
  • Diarrhea (if the pelvis is being treated)
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Low blood counts

To learn more about radiation therapy, see the Radiation Therapy section of our website, or Understanding Radiation Therapy: A Guide for Patients and Families.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Medical Review: February 6, 2014 Last Revised: February 9, 2016

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