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Types of Treatment for Uterine Cancer

Treatment for uterine cancer is either local or systemic. Local treatments remove, destroy, or control cancer cells in a certain area. Surgery and radiation are local treatments.

Systemic treatments destroy or control cancer cells throughout the body. Chemotherapy and hormone therapy are systemic treatments.

You may have just one treatment. Or you may have a combination of treatments. The general types of treatment for endometrial cancer and uterine cancer are the same. Their goals, order, and intensity may change based on the specific type and stage of cancer you have.

Local treatments for uterine cancer

Surgery and radiation therapy are two local treatments for uterine cancer. They work to either remove or destroy the tumor from the uterus:

  • Surgery. The goal of surgery is to completely remove the tumor from your body. With uterine cancer, this generally means that your entire uterus must be removed through an abdominal incision (a cut in your lower belly). Usually, the fallopian tubes and ovaries are also removed. The surgery may be done using one of several different techniques: an incision in the abdomen; through a laparoscope, using a camera and tools inserted in the abdomen through several very small incisions; with a robot operating a laparoscope; or through the vagina. Some of the lymph nodes surrounding your uterus may be removed to check for cancer cells. If the tumor is discovered outside of the uterus and it can be removed, it will likely be resected (removed) during surgery. 

  • Radiation therapy. Radiation is also called radiotherapy. The goal is to kill cancer cells using radiation such as that found in X-rays. Radiation therapy may be used by itself to kill all the cells of a tumor. It may also be used before surgery to shrink a tumor or after surgery to get rid of any remaining cancer cells. You may get radiation to your pelvic area or implant radiation that is put in through your vagina.

Systemic treatments for uterine cancer

Hormone therapy and chemotherapy are systemic treatments for uterine cancer. They both work to kill cancer cells or prevent new ones from growing anywhere in your body:

  • Hormone therapy. The goal of hormone therapy is to stop cancer cells from growing. Some cancer cells need certain hormones to grow. Drugs can reduce the production of these hormones. Drugs can also be used to block these hormones from working in cancer cells.

  • Chemotherapy. The goal of chemotherapy is to kill cancer cells throughout your body. As of yet, it has not been proven that chemotherapy can reduce the chance that uterine cancer will spread to other parts of your body or that it can cure uterine cancer. But it can kill cells and shrink tumors that have been found outside your uterus.

Goals of treatment

Treatments for uterine cancer can be divided into two groups:

  • Curative treatments. These treatments kill or remove cancer cells--even cells that have spread are killed or removed. These treatments may cure the cancer. For small cancers, surgery alone is often curative. For more advanced cancers, a combination of treatments that includes surgery, radiation, and/or chemotherapy may be used in an effort to cure the cancer.

  • Palliative treatments. These treatments slow down the growth of cancer and treat symptoms. They don't cure the cancer, but they can help you live longer and feel better.

Before you have a treatment, ask your doctor what its goal is.

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