The treatment options for uterine cancer include surgery, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, and chemotherapy. The choice of treatment will depend on the stage and grade of the cancer, and the person’s overall health and preferences.

Uterine cancer is cancer that starts in the uterus. Endometrial cancer and uterine sarcoma, which is less common, are two types of uterine cancer.

Gynecologic cancer is any cancer involving the female reproductive system. Endometrial cancer is the most common gynecologic cancer in the United States.

Early detection of uterine cancer often leads to a better outlook.

This article will look at the different treatment options for uterine cancer and their benefits and side effects.

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

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The goal of treatment for uterine cancer is typically to remove or destroy the cancerous cells to help prevent the cancer from spreading or reoccurring.

Depending on the stage and grade of the cancer, doctors may aim to cure it.

In some cases, they may aim to manage it for as long as possible to relieve symptoms and improve the person’s quality of life. This is known as palliative care. It may involve treatments such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy to shrink the tumor or relieve pain, and supportive care such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, and counseling.

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Surgery is typically the first treatment for uterine cancer. However, the type of surgery will depend on the stage of the cancer.

A doctor may recommend a hysterectomy, which is the removal of the uterus and cervix, for early stage cancers. In some cases, this could be curative.

A surgeon may also remove the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and lymph nodes during surgery to treat later stage cancers.

Benefits and risks

Surgery can be highly effective in removing or destroying cancerous cells. It may be possible to cure the cancer with surgery alone in some cases, especially if a doctor can detect it early. Surgery can also provide relief from symptoms such as heavy bleeding or pain.

However, as with any surgery, surgery for uterine cancer carries risks such as bleeding, infection, and complications from anesthesia.

Surgery is also permanent. If a person wishes to become pregnant in the future, having a hysterectomy will mean this is not possible.

If a person wants to become pregnant, they should talk with a doctor about fertility-sparing treatment options. The doctors may be able to delay surgery until the person has given birth.

Removing the ovaries will cause a person to begin menopause. This can cause symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness.

Recovery time can also vary depending on the type of surgery and the person’s general health. Typically, people will need to stay in the hospital for 3–7 days after a hysterectomy, and full recovery can take as long as 6 weeks.

Learn more about surgical menopause here.

Radiation therapy uses high energy radiation to kill cancer cells.

Medical experts can deliver it externally using a machine outside the body, or internally from a device placed inside the body.

Doctors typically use radiation after performing surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells. It may also be helpful before surgery to shrink tumors.

Possible side effects

Fatigue, skin irritation, and diarrhea are common side effects of radiation therapy.

Long-term side effects may include vaginal dryness, vaginal narrowing, and potential complications related to the bladder and rectum.

Because radiation is a carcinogen, there is also a risk of developing other, secondary cancers related to radiation therapy.

Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. Most people will receive these medications intravenously.

Possible side effects

Hair loss, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue are common side effects of chemotherapy.

There is also a risk of infection, anemia, and bleeding due to low blood cell count, and damage to the heart, kidneys, and other organs.

Learn more about side effects of chemotherapy here.

Hormone therapy involves taking medications that block the effects of hormones such as estrogen and progesterone, as these can fuel the growth of certain types of uterine cancer.

Doctors typically recommend hormone therapy for people with advanced or reoccurrent uterine cancer. A doctor may prescribe it alone or in combination with other treatments.

Possible side effects

Hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and weakened bones are common side effects of hormone therapy.

Accelerated bone mineral density loss can also occur with hormonal treatment, as with menopause.

There is also a risk of developing cardiovascular disease and blood clots. Because of this, a doctor may recommend alternative treatments for people with preexisting cardiovascular conditions.

Other treatment options for uterine cancer include the following:

  • Targeted therapy: This treatment uses drugs that target specific molecules involved in the growth and spread of cancer cells.
  • Immunotherapy: This treatment uses the body’s immune system to fight cancer cells.
  • Alternative treatments: Alternative treatments are not standard treatments for uterine cancer, and doctors do not recommend people use them as their only treatment. Some alternative treatments include herbal supplements, acupuncture, and dietary changes. However, there is limited scientific evidence supporting their effectiveness, and it is important to consult a healthcare professional before starting any alternative treatment.

Uterine cancer is a type of cancer that affects the uterus. There are various treatment options for it.

Surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and hormone therapy are the most common standard treatments for uterine cancer.

A person should discuss their options with a medical professional to determine the best treatment plan for them and their specific diagnosis.