Treatment options for endometrial cancer are based on several factors, including the type and stage of cancer, possible side effects, overall health, age, and personal preferences. Your gynecologic oncologist will also take into consideration your ability to have children (fertility).
Treatment options for people with uterine cancer include:
You may receive more than one type of treatment.
Surgery is the most common treatment for women with uterine cancer. In most cases, this is one of the first steps so that the cancer can be confirmed and staged.
The surgeon usually removes the uterus, cervix, and nearby tissues. They may be able to leave the ovaries intact, but that will depend on what they see when they go in to perform surgery using cameras that will show the physician if cancer is present in other areas.
Radiation Therapy for Endometrial Cancer
Radiation therapy is an option for women with all stages of uterine cancer. It may be used before or after surgery. For women who can’t have surgery for other medical reasons, radiation therapy may be used to destroy cancer cells in the uterus. Women with cancer that invades tissue beyond the uterus may have radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. It affects cells in the treated area only.
Doctors use two types of radiation therapy to treat uterine cancer. Some women receive both types:
Internal radiation therapy (also called brachytherapy): A narrow cylinder is placed inside your vagina, and a radioactive substance is loaded into the cylinder. This common method of brachytherapy may be repeated two or more times over several weeks. Once the radioactive substance is removed, no radioactivity is left in the body.
External radiation therapy: A large machine directs radiation at your pelvis or other areas with cancer. The treatment is usually given in a hospital or clinic. You may receive external radiation 5 days a week for several weeks. Each session takes only a few minutes.
Medical Oncology Uterine Cancer Therapies
Some treatment plans may include the use of medications to destroy cancer cells. Medication may be given through the bloodstream to reach cancer cells throughout the body. When a drug is given this way, it is called systemic therapy. Systemic cancer therapies include chemotherapy, targeted therapy, hormone therapy, and immunotherapy. The administration of these treatments is overseen by the gynecologic oncologist.
Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. It may be used after surgery to treat uterine cancer with an increased risk of returning after treatment. For example, uterine cancer that is a high grade or is Stage II, III, or IV may be more likely to return. Also, chemotherapy may be given to women whose uterine cancer can’t be completely removed by surgery. For advanced cancer, it may be used alone or with radiation therapy.
Chemotherapy for uterine cancer is usually given by vein (intravenous). It’s usually given in cycles. Each cycle has a treatment period followed by a rest period.
Some uterine tumors need hormones to grow. These tumors have hormone receptors for the hormones estrogen, progesterone, or both. If lab tests show that the tumor in your uterus has these receptors, then hormone therapy may be an option.
Hormone therapy may be used for women with advanced uterine cancer. Also, some women with Stage I uterine cancer who want to get pregnant and have children choose hormone therapy instead of surgery. The most common drug used for hormone therapy is progesterone tablets.
Targeted therapy is a type of treatment that uses drugs or other substances to identify and attack specific cancer cells. Targeted therapies usually cause less harm to normal cells than chemotherapy or radiation therapy does. Targeted therapy for uterine cancer includes:
Anti-angiogenesis therapy, which is focused on stopping angiogenesis, the process of making new blood vessels. A tumor needs the nutrients delivered by blood vessels to grow and spread, so the goal of anti-angiogenesis therapies is to “starve” the tumor. Bevacizumab (Avastin) is a type of anti-angiogenesis therapy used to treat uterine cancer.
Mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) inhibitors, which block mTOR, a protein that helps control cell division. mTOR inhibitors may keep cancer cells from growing and prevent the growth of new blood vessels that tumors need to grow. Everolimus and ridaforolimus are used to treat late-stage and recurrent endometrial cancer.
Immunotherapy uses the body's natural defenses to fight cancer by improving your immune system’s ability to attack cancer cells. Immunotherapy treatment may include:
- Immune checkpoint inhibitors, which target immune checkpoints — certain proteins that work to depress the immune response. The drug pembrolizumab (Keytruda) is a checkpoint inhibitor that may be part of your treatment plan.
The Latest Uterine Cancer Treatments in the South Chicago Area
If you have been diagnosed with uterine cancer, the gynecologic oncologists at Affiliated Oncologists work with you to recommend a treatment plan specific to your needs using the latest treatments available. We have cancer centers in the South Chicago suburbs, including Downers Grove and Oak Lawn, IL. We also provide second opinions on diagnosis and treatment for endometrial cancer.