About chemotherapy for womb cancer | Cancer Research UK
Cancer Research UK on Google+ Cancer Research UK on Facebook Cancer Research UK on Twitter

A quick guide to what's on this page

Chemotherapy for womb cancer

Chemotherapy uses anti cancer (cytotoxic) drugs to destroy cancer cells. It isn't usual to have chemotherapy for early stage womb cancer at the moment. But you may have it as well as radiotherapy after surgery if there is a high risk of your cancer coming back. 

You may have chemotherapy after surgery to treat some stage 3 or 4 womb cancers. Or you may have it on its own for advanced womb cancer or cancer that has come back after treatment. 

You are most likely to have chemotherapy as an outpatient. You have the drugs as injections through a small tube or by drip into a vein, and go home afterwards.

Chemotherapy side effects

Chemotherapy has side effects. The side effects you get depend on which drugs you have, how much of each drug you have, and how you individually react to the drug.

Common side effects include

  • A drop in the number of blood cells causing increased risk of infection, bruising or bleeding, and anaemia
  • Feeling sick
  • Diarrhoea
  • Hair loss or thinning
  • Sore mouth and mouth ulcers
  • Feeling tired and run down


CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the treating womb cancer section.



What chemotherapy is

Chemotherapy uses anti cancer (cytotoxic) drugs to destroy cancer cells. They work by stopping the growth of cancer cells. The drugs circulate in the bloodstream around the body.


When chemotherapy is used for womb cancer

It isn't usual to have chemotherapy for early stage womb cancer (stage 1 or 2) at the moment. This is because there is not enough evidence that chemotherapy after surgery (adjuvant chemotherapy) reduces the risk of the cancer coming back. Your doctor is more likely to offer it as well as radiotherapy if there is a high risk of your cancer coming back.

Your doctor may offer you chemotherapy after surgery for stage 3 and some stage 4 cancers.

Doctors sometimes use chemotherapy to treat womb cancer that has spread to other parts of the body or that has come back after it was first treated. In this case it can help to reduce symptoms.

The chemotherapy drugs you have can depend on different factors, including if your cancer is advanced and your general health. You may have a single drug or a combination of drugs. You may have a drug called carboplatin on its own. Or you may have carboplatin with paclitaxel. A combination called CAP is sometimes used. CAP is short for the names of the drugs in the combination – cyclophosphamide (C), doxorubicin, which is also called Adriamycin (A), and cisplatin or carboplatin (P). If you have chemotherapy at the same time as radiotherapy, you are likely to have the drug cisplatin.

In our cancer drugs section there is information about the specific side effects of 


How you have chemotherapy

It is usual to have chemotherapy in cycles of treatment, with a few weeks break in between treatments. You are most likely to have this treatment as an outpatient. Before each treatment you need to have blood tests to make sure your blood counts are high enough to cope with the side effects of the chemotherapy. You usually have the blood tests taken a day or two before you are due to start your next cycle of treatment. 

You have the chemotherapy drugs as injections or through a drip and go home after you have had them. 

View a transcript of this video here. (Opens in a new window)

Sometimes chemotherapy needs a short stay in hospital. Whether you are treated in the outpatient department or in the hospital depends on the drugs you are having. Some drugs have to be given with a lot of fluids, so you need to stay in to have a drip. Others need to go in slowly through a drip over 12 or 24 hours.

We have detailed information about how you have chemotherapy.


Chemotherapy side effects

Chemotherapy has side effects. The effects you get depend on

  • Which drugs you have
  • How much of each drug you have
  • How you react to the drug

Not everyone gets every side effect with every drug. Some people react more than others. And different drugs have different side effects. So we can't tell you exactly what will happen to you. Most side effects only last for the few days that you are actually having the drugs. And there is quite a bit that can be done to help. Here is a list of some common side effects

Click on the links above for information about coping with these effects. Ask your doctor or nurse which of these side effects are most common with the chemotherapy drugs you will have. 

Tell your doctor or nurse about any side effects you have straight away so that they can help you as much as possible.

Remember - if you have a high temperature or feel unwell when you are at home between treatments, it is very important to contact your team at the hospital. You may need urgent treatment with antibiotics. Your doctor or chemotherapy nurse will give you an emergency number to phone if you need to.

Chemotherapy courses can seem to go on for a long time, particularly if you are getting very tired towards the end of your course. But they do finish. And the side effects will go once your treatment has ended.


Dietary or herbal supplements and chemotherapy

We don't yet know much scientifically about how some nutritional or herbal supplements may interact with chemotherapy. Some could be harmful. It is very important to let your doctors know if you take any supplements. Or if you are prescribed therapies by alternative or complementary therapy practitioners.

Talk to your specialist about any other tablets or medicines you take while you are having active treatment. There is information about the safety of herbal, vitamin and diet supplements in our complementary therapies section.

Some studies seem to suggest that fish oil preparations may reduce the effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs. If you are taking or thinking of taking these supplements talk to your doctor to find out whether they could affect your treatment.


More information about chemotherapy

For more about chemotherapy look at the main chemotherapy section.

It explains the treatment in detail including

If you would like more information about anything to do with chemotherapy, contact our cancer information nurses. They would be happy to help. Or you can contact one of the cancer information organisations on our womb cancer organisations page. They often have free factsheets and booklets, which they can send to you.

Rate this page:
Submit rating


Rated 5 out of 5 based on 6 votes
Rate this page
Rate this page for no comments box
Please enter feedback to continue submitting
Send feedback
Question about cancer? Contact our information nurse team

No Error

Updated: 6 October 2014