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Types of treatment for womb cancer

Women discussing womb cancer

This page gives an overview of the main treatments for womb cancer. There is information about

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Types of treatment for womb cancer

Surgery is the first and most important treatment for almost all women with womb cancer. Women with very early womb cancer may need no further treatment. 

Depending on the type of womb cancer you have, whether it has spread, and how far, your doctor may recommend radiotherapy, chemotherapy, or hormone therapy

Surgery

The amount and type of surgery you have will depend on the stage, grade and type of the cancer. Most women will be advised to have removal of the womb (a total hysterectomy), with the fallopian tubes and both ovaries removed.

Radiotherapy

You may have radiotherapy instead of surgery if you are not fit enough for an operation. Or you may have radiotherapy if you do not want to have an operation. You might also have radiotherapy as your main treatment if it may be difficult to remove all your womb cancer with surgery. Your specialist may suggest radiotherapy after surgery if there is a moderate to high risk that the cancer may come back.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy may be used before or after surgery instead of radiotherapy. It aims to lower the chance of the cancer coming back. Chemotherapy may also control the growth of a cancer that has spread or come back after initial treatment.

Hormone therapy

You may have hormone therapy to help slow down the growth of a cancer that has spread or come back. 

 

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

 

 

The main treatments

Surgery is the first and most important treatment for almost all women with womb cancer. Women with very early womb cancer may need no further treatment. 

Depending on the type of womb cancer you have, whether it has spread or how far your doctor may recommend radiotherapy, chemotherapy or hormone therapy.

 

Surgery

Almost all women with womb cancer will have surgery. The amount and type of surgery you have will depend on the stage, grade and type of cancer. Most women will be advised to have a total hysterectomy, with the womb, fallopian tubes and ovaries removed.

Some women may need to have the lymph nodes around the womb removed and checked for signs of cancer. This is done at the same time as your hysterectomy. Not only does it remove any cancer that is in the lymph nodes, but checking them helps your specialist to decide on whether you need any further treatment. You are most likely to have surgery to remove the lymph nodes if you have a grade 2 or 3 womb cancer. If you have a grade 1 cancer you are much less likely to have lymph nodes removed. 

For cancers that are completely contained within the womb, surgery is very successful and often no further treatment is needed.

Your specialist may suggest surgery for a womb cancer that has spread beyond the womb. There is some evidence that although surgery may not result in a cure, removing as much as possible can help to slow down the growth of the cancer. But you need to be well enough to make a good recovery from the surgery in order to benefit from it.

 

Radiotherapy

Some women have radiotherapy for cancer of the womb. You may have radiotherapy

  • Instead of surgery, as your main treatment
  • After surgery
  • Before surgery

You may have radiotherapy instead of surgery because you are not fit enough for an operation. Or you may have it because you do not want to have an operation. Your doctors may also suggest radiotherapy as the main treatment if your cancer is locally advanced. Locally advanced means the cancer has grown into nearby structures so that it may be quite difficult to remove it all with surgery. This may be the case in some stage 3 and stage 4A womb cancers.

Usually, specialists suggest radiotherapy after surgery if there is a moderate to high risk that the cancer may come back. This may be because

  • The cancer had grown more than half way through the muscle wall of the womb
  • The cancer had grown down to the neck of the womb (cervix)
  • The cancer cells were judged to be grade 3 or 4 (high grade)

You are most likely to have radiotherapy after your surgery if you didn't have your lymph nodes removed during the operation. Your specialist may also suggest it if you did have lymph nodes removed and they turned out to contain cancer cells. If your lymph nodes were removed, but were free of cancer, you generally don't need radiotherapy after surgery. This may depend on how many lymph nodes are removed.

 

Chemotherapy

Some women may have chemotherapy before or after surgery for stage 3 or 4 womb cancer. This is to try to lower the risk of the cancer coming back later. A review of trials in 2014 showed that it can be better than radiotherapy in preventing the cancer coming back. You can see the review of chemotherapy for womb cancer trials on this link.

Trials are looking into using both radiotherapy and chemotherapy (chemoradiation) after surgery for womb cancer. This treatment is being tried in situations where doctors think there is a high risk of the cancer coming back.

Chemotherapy may also sometimes be used when cancers have come back or spread after previous treatment.

 

Hormone therapy

For advanced cancers, or womb cancer that has come back, you may have hormone therapy to help slow down the growth of the cancer.

 

Research into womb cancer treatments

There are clinical trials going on around the world for all types of cancer. Doctors and researchers are always working to improve treatment outcomes. Comparing groups of patients who are having different treatments is the best way of doing this. 

We have a page about womb cancer research

And we have a database of clinical trials in the UK, including womb cancer trials.

 

Your treatment team

Your treatment is likely to be organised by a team of specialists working together – a multi disciplinary team (MDT). 

The team usually includes

  • A surgeon
  • Cancer drug specialist (oncologist)
  • Radiotherapy specialist (clinical oncologist)
  • Clinical nurse specialists
  • Other professionals such as social workers, dieticians and counsellors or psychologists

Most women see a surgeon first because surgery is the most likely treatment. You may then also see a cancer specialist (oncologist). 

The team will plan your treatment according to

  • The type of womb cancer you have
  • Whether the cancer has spread (the stage)
  • What the cells look like under the microscope (the grade)
  • Your general health
  • Your preferences
 

More information about womb cancer treatment

We have detailed information about womb cancer treatments in this section.

If you would like more information about any aspect of womb cancer, you can phone the Cancer Research UK nurses. The number is freephone 0808 800 4040 and the lines are open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. They will be happy to answer any questions that you have.

Our womb cancer organisations page gives details of other people who can provide information about womb cancer and its treatment. Some organisations can put you in touch with a cancer support group. They often have free factsheets and information that they can send to you.

There are also books, booklets, CDs and other resources available about womb cancer treatments. Some of these are free. Look at our womb cancer reading list for details.

If you want to find people to share experiences with online, you could use Cancer Chat, our online forum.

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Updated: 16 January 2013