To treat uterine cancer, physicians take into account the stage at which it was discovered.
Surgery is the standard treatment if the cancer has not spread beyond the uterus. The surgical removal of the uterus is called hysterectomy. This surgery can be performed using either an abdominal incision, or removing the uterus through the vagina. When cancer affects the vagina and cervix, a surgeon performs a radical hysterectomy to remove the uterus, part of the vagina, and the tissues near the uterus.
A radical hysterectomy can sometimes involve the removal of the ovaries and fallopian tubes. This part of the surgery is called salpingo-oopherectomy. The removal of lymph nodes from the pelvic region is common to test for metastasis, or the spread of cancer to other areas.
Fortunately, early stage uterine cancer is curable with surgery. It is necessary, however, to use supplementary treatments in some cases.
Radiation treatment use radioactive elements to decrease tumors and destroy cancer cells. For this reason, physicians occasionally prescribe radiation therapy before hysterectomy to minimize tumors. More commonly, radiation is given post-surgery to eradicate any cancer cells that may remain. For uterine cancer, doctors use one of two radiation delivery methods. Brachytherapy refers to radiation therapy administered internally, using an applicator inserted into the vagina that contains a radioactive substance. This procedure requires hospitalization because the applicator is left inside the vagina for several days. External beam radiation refers to external delivery of radiation. Targeting the specific area affected, a large machine administers a beam of radiation. This treatment is given five days a week for several weeks, as an outpatient procedure.
Chemotherapy uses medicine to destroy cancer cells in the body. This treatment is used when cancer has spread, or to reduce the recurrence of cancer. Chemotherapy can be taken orally or administered by injection.
Hormone therapy refers to the use of hormones to stop the growth of cancer cells. Progesterone is a particularly important hormone in the treatment of uterine cancer. This treatment is also used in situations in which cancer has metastasized, or as a non-surgical therapy for patients whose health issues may prevent surgery to remove the uterus.
Alternative Treatments and Therapies
Alternative treatments for uterine cancer may include:
- Naturopathic medicine, is a method that aims to treat the whole patient, not just the area affected by cancer. Using the least invasive methods, naturopathic treatments rely on the bodyís inherent capacity to heal itself.
- Nutritional therapy is often administered along with conventional treatments to equip the body to handle the symptoms of cancer and the side-effects of treatment.
Patients use meditation, support groups, and counseling to deal with the effects of the disease.