Medical treatments and complementary approaches of endometrial cancer (uterine body)
The choice of medical Treatments depends on the stage of evolution of cancer, type of cancer (hormone or not) and the risk of recidivism. Most women have to undergo surgery to remove the uterus (hysterectomy). Surgery is a fairly safe way to remove cancer. Some also receive radiation therapy or chemotherapy, depending on the severity and extent of the cancer.
The risk of recurrence is higher in the three years following diagnosis. Upon completion of treatment, it is advisable to see your doctor or gynecologist for a pelvic exam every 3 or 6 months for 2 years. Thereafter, annual monitoring is usually sufficient. It is also recommended to have a Papanicolaou (Pap test) every 6 months for 2 years, then annually.
This surgery is done through an incision in the abdomen. The standard hysterectomy involves removal of the uterus and cervix (the vagina is preserved). Often, the surgeon also removes the ovaries and fallopian tubes (bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy). This procedure eliminates sources of natural sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone and testosterone). This means that following this intervention, some women choose to take hormone replacement therapy, according to their age and their symptoms.
The surgeon may decide to remove some lymph nodes located nearby, if he suspects they are also affected by cancer.
When surgery is performed at an early stage of the disease, this treatment is usually sufficient.
If the cancer is at a more advanced stage or if the risk of recurrence is high, the doctor offers radiotherapy, once completed the surgery. A high dose of X-rays is directed to the affected area in order to eliminate cancerous cells.
Radiation therapy can be made by internally or externally. Some patients may receive two kinds.
– External radiotherapy. An apparatus projects X-rays on the pelvic area. Each exhibition lasts a few seconds. The treatment lasts 5-8 weeks
– Internal radiotherapy or brachytherapy. Small tubes containing radioactive substances are inserted into the vagina. The internal channel has the advantage of allowing a higher amount of radiation reaches the affected area. It also minimizes the effects of radiation on healthy tissue. The duration of treatment varies from 1 day to several days.
In cases where the cancer has spread in the body, taking a progestin, a synthetic form of the hormone progesterone, can help limit the growth of metastases.
This treatment is also used in women whose cancer is at an early stage and want to avoid the removal of the uterus in order to have children. This choice must be well matured, because the risk of recurrence is higher with hormone therapy.
Other types of hormonal treatments may be employed to reduce the levels of estrogen in premenopausal women.
Chemotherapy is another type of treatment that can be used when the cancer is at an advanced stage. These are drugs that kill cancer cells that have spread. Some are taken in the form of tablets, other intravenously.
The disease and its treatments can have significant impacts, such as changing fertility and sexual intercourse, and can cause a lot of stress. Several organizations offer support services to answer questions and provide comfort. See Support Groups section.