Treatment for cancer of the womb (uterus)
The main treatments of womb cancer are:
- Hormone therapy
When planning your treatment, your doctor will consider the stage of the cancer, your age and your general health.
Surgery is the most common way of treating womb cancer. The aim of the surgery is to remove all the tumour. Your doctor will discuss if surgery is suitable for you. It will depend on the type and size of the cancer and if it has spread or not.
The most common type of surgery is the removal of the womb, the ovaries and the fallopian tubes. This is called a total hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy. Sometimes the lymph nodes are also removed.
Radiotherapy uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells in your womb. It can be given after surgery (adjuvant therapy). It may also be given if the cancer has spread to the area around the womb. The rays come from a machine called a linear accelerator. This type of treatment is called external beam radiotherapy.
Sometimes a different type of radiotherapy called internal radiotherapy or brachytherapy is used. Here the source of the radiation is placed inside your womb for a very short time to kill the cancer cells. Please see our Understanding Radiotherapy booklet, which you can download from our "Important cancer information booklets" list on the right hand side of this page, for more information on radiotherapy.
Chemotherapy uses drugs to cure or control cancer. It can be given after surgery (adjuvant therapy) in the treatment of womb cancer. It can also be used alone or with radiotherapy.
Some common drugs used to treat womb cancer are:
Please see our Understanding Chemotherapy and Other Cancer Drugs booklet, which you can download from our "Publications about cancer treatment side effects" list on the right hand side of this page, for more information about chemotherapy. For more about drugs, see our information list of chemotherapy drugs.
Hormones are substances made naturally in your body. The two female sex hormones, progesterone and oestrogen, can affect how cells grow in the lining of your womb. Hormone treatment may be given to help reduce the tumour and control some symptoms the cancer may be causing. The hormone normally given is progesterone.
Advanced cancer is when the cancer has spread to other tissues and organs. It can spread to nearby organs or distant ones such as the lungs, bone, liver and brain.
Sadly, it is usually not possible to cure advanced cancer. Treatment can be given to control the cancer and to improve your quality of life. Treatments can involve radiotherapy, hormone therapy, surgery and chemotherapy.
You may also be seen by the palliative care team at this time. This team are there to help with your symptoms and to support you and your family through your treatment.
The type of side-effects you get will depend on the type of treatment, the dose, the duration and your own general health. Your doctor will discuss any likely side-effects before treatment and also ways to relieve them.
Some treatments may cause symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and loss of appetite or hair loss. Many treatments cause fatigue. Radiotherapy to the pelvis can also narrow the vagina. If you have a hysterectomy and your ovaries are removed, you will get an early menopause (that is if you did not have the menopause before surgery). As a result, you may get symptoms like hot flushes, dry skin and night sweats. Do discuss these with your doctor.
For more about coping with side-effects, see the booklets Understanding Chemotherapy and Other Cancer Drugs, Understanding Radiotherapy, Coping with Fatigue, Diet and Cancer and Understanding the Emotional Effects of Cancer, all available to download under the "Publications about cancer treatment side effects" list on the right hand side of this page.
If a treatment looks like it might be helpful, it is given to patients in research studies called clinical trials. Trials may be taking place at the hospital you are attending. If you are interested in taking part, talk to your doctor. He or she can tell you if the trial would suit you or not.