What Are the Treatment Options for Endometrial Cancer?by Eileen Bailey Health Writer
Endometrial cancer is when malignant cells grow in the tissues of the lining of your uterus (called the endometrium). There are five main types of treatment: surgery, radiation therapy, hormonal therapy, chemotherapy and targeted therapy according to the National Cancer Institute. Your doctor will recommend specific treatments based on the stage of your cancer. Other factors, such as your age, overall health, and whether you plan to have children can play a role in your treatment options.
Surgery is the most common treatment for endometrial cancer. Your doctor may recommend a hysterectomy, with or without removal of the ovaries and fallopian tubes. Your doctor might also suggest removing some or all of your pelvic lymph nodes to determine if cancer has spread outside the uterus, according to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. For women with early stage cancer, surgery might be the only treatment needed.
Radiation therapy works to kill cancer cells or prevent them from reproducing. It uses high energy x-rays or other radiation and is sometimes used after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells or to prevent the cancer from returning, according to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Some people that are not healthy enough to undergo surgery may have radiation instead.
Progestin therapy can be used to postpone a hysterectomy. This is done if a woman is in child-bearing years and plans to have children. This type of therapy can sometimes cause the cancer to shrink or go away temporarily. It is risky because putting off surgery gives the cancer time to spread, and it is often not successful, according to the American Cancer Society.
Chemotherapy may be used for late-stage cancers, according to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. You may have one chemotherapy drug or a combination of several drugs. Your doctor might recommend chemotherapy after surgery to kill any remaining cancer or to prevent the cancer from returning. Sometimes chemotherapy is used in addition to radiation therapy.
Complementary treatments are those that you use in addition to treatments such as surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy. They are used to help you feel better and relieve some of the side effects of the treatment. These include herbal teas to help with nausea or guided imagery to relieve pain. Other complementary treatments, such as meditation, are meant to help improve your quality of life, according to the American Cancer Society.
Some people opt to not have traditional treatments for cancer and may use unproven treatments such as herbal supplements, vitamins, or acupuncture. These methods can put you at risk of having your cancer spread. When looking at alternative therapies, pay attention to whether clinical studies have been completed, the credentials of those performing the studies, and whether the results have been published in peer reviewed journals. Always discuss any alternative treatments with your doctor.
Clinical trials are research studies looking at new treatments. You can look for studies at ClinicalTrials.gov or the American Cancer Society. If you are enrolled in a clinical trial, your treatment and medication are paid for through the trial. Clinical trials offer you the opportunity to receive new, promising treatments before they are available to the public, but the treatments are also not approved yet. If you are interested in participating in a clinical trial, talk with your doctor.
Deciding on a treatment
Making a decision on treatment for endometrial cancer can be overwhelming and confusing. Talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of each treatment option. If possible, have a relative or friend accompany you to help you gather information. Make sure to ask questions if you aren’t sure about something, and voice concerns if you have them. Together, you and your health care team can make a decision that best fits your situation.
Getting a second opinion
Before undergoing any treatment, it may be wise to get a second opinion. Talking to a different doctor about your treatment options might provide you with additional information, give you new insights or reinforce your decision on what treatment is best. Your doctor can help you start the process and might even encourage you to do so.