Surgery to relieve symptoms of advanced womb cancer

Not everyone with advanced womb cancer can have surgery. You might not be well enough for an operation. Or your doctor might recommend another treatment that is more suitable for your situation. 

Your doctor will only recommend surgery if they think it will help control the cancer and help you feel better. You also need to be fit enough to make a good recovery afterwards. And that they think It's important that the benefits of surgery are more than the discomfort you will have to go through.

You might need time to think about your treatment options. Talk to your doctor and specialist nurse and discuss things with your family and friends. 

Types of surgery

Advanced womb cancer is more difficult to treat with surgery. The cancer has spread to another part of the body, so surgery to remove the womb will not cure it. But you might have an operation if it can help your situation.

Removing as much of the cancer as possible

Your specialist might recommend an operation to remove as much of the cancer as possible (called debulking). It can slow down the growth of the cancer and help to relieve any symptoms you are having. Treatment to help with symptoms is called palliative treatment. So your doctor might describe this as palliative surgery.

Treating a blocked bowel

There is a risk that your bowel could become blocked if your cancer begins to grow into your bowel. This means that the waste that normally passes through the bowel cannot get through.

This may not happen to you. But if it does, you might:

  • feel bloated
  • be constipated
  • feel sick
  • have griping pains in your abdomen
  • vomit large amounts

It may be possible to have an operation to remove the blockage, or bypass it by making a colostomy. A colostomy is an opening of the bowel onto the surface of the abdomen (tummy). A bag is worn over the opening to collect the waste matter from the bowel.

Your specialist might suggest a drug called somatostatin (Octreotide) if you can't have an operation. The drug works by reducing the amount of fluid that builds up in your stomach and digestive system. Unfortunately, this treatment usually only works for a few weeks or a couple of months.

Treating a waterlogged kidney (hydronephrosis)

Doctors call a waterlogged kidney hydronephrosis. Sometimes womb cancer can spread and block one of the tubes from the kidney to the bladder (the ureters).

This means that the urine made by that kidney can't drain away and the kidney becomes overloaded with it. To treat this your doctor might put in a tube to drain the urine from the kidney.

The drainage tube is called a nephrostomy tube. It is attached to a bag outside the body. The urine collects in the bag which has a tap for easy emptying. After this type of surgery, you have a district nurse visit you at home to help you manage the tube and drainage bag.

Sometimes it is possible to pass a tube (a stent) through the blockage so that the kidney can drain inside you and you don’t need a drainage bag.

Last reviewed: 
07 Feb 2022
Next review due: 
10 Feb 2024
  • ESMO-ESGO-ESTRO Consensus Conference on Endometrial Cancer: diagnosis, treatment and follow-up

    N Columbo and others (2016) 

    Annals of Oncology 27: 16–41

  • Endometrial Cancer
    Kimberly K. Leslie (and others)
    Obstet Gynecol Clin North Am. 2012 Jun; 39(2): 255–268

Related links