Controlling symptoms of advanced womb cancer

Unfortunately, advanced womb cancer can't usually be cured. This can be hard to accept. But, there are several ways to control symptoms.

Womb cancer becomes more difficult to treat if it has:

  • spread from where it started in the womb

  • come back after it was first treated

Sometimes the cancer keeps coming back in the pelvis or abdomen despite treatment. This is called recurrent cancer.

Less often, womb cancer can spread from where it started in the womb to other organs in the body. This is called secondary cancer (metastasis). This happens when womb cancer cells travel through the lymphatic system or bloodstream.

Types of treatment

The symptoms of advanced womb cancer depend on where it has spread to in the body. They may include:

  • pain

  • tiredness and feeling unwell

  • loss of appetite

  • bowel problems

  • feeling or being sick

The main treatments to treat womb cancer that has spread or cannot be cured are:

  • surgery

  • radiotherapy

  • chemotherapy

  • hormone therapy

  • immunotherapy and targeted treatment

These can help to control symptoms and the growth of the cancer.

Which treatment you have will depend on:

  • where your cancer has spread

  • the size and number of secondary cancers you have

  • whether your cancer has any gene changes (mutations)

  • the symptoms the cancer is causing

  • the treatment you have already had

  • your general health

You will also have other more specific treatments that help with any symptoms you have. This might include pain killers for pain or medicines for sickness. 

There might be trials of experimental treatments which you could take part in. These might be looking at:

  • new treatments
  • ways to improve existing treatments such as radiotherapy or chemotherapy and when you have them

You can search our clinical trials database for womb cancer trials.

Deciding about treatment

When you have advanced cancer, it can be difficult to decide which treatment to try, if any. It is important for you to consider everything. This includes:

  • possible side effects
  • travelling to the hospital for appointments and treatment

Most importantly, you will need to understand what treatment can achieve. Your doctor will discuss the treatment options with you. And there may be a counsellor or specialist nurse you could chat to.

You may also want to talk through the options with a close relative or friend.

Treatment options

Radiotherapy can control pain by shrinking tumours:

  • pressing on nerves
  • growing inside bones

Your doctor might suggest radiotherapy to control pain or to relieve symptoms. This is usually if:

  • your cancer has spread to other organs, such as your lungs
  • you have vaginal bleeding. 

You usually only need a short course of radiotherapy to control symptoms. You might have 1 or 2 treatments. Some people have up to 10 treatments. So radiotherapy in this situation does not usually have many side effects.

There is a maximum total dose of radiotherapy for any part of the body. Too much radiotherapy could cause permanent damage. 

You usually will not be offered further treatment to your pelvis or abdomen if you have already had your radiotherapy limit to this area. 

Some types of hormone therapy, such as progesterone, can help to shrink or control womb cancers that have spread. They are especially useful when the cancer has spread to the lungs. And when you don't have a lot of symptoms from the cancer.

Your specialist will only suggest surgery in very specific situations for womb cancer that cannot be cured. You would only be able to have surgery if you are fit enough to make a good recovery from an operation. It is important that the benefits of the operation are more than the discomfort you will have to go through. So you need to think how getting over surgery will make you feel.

Surgery can be used to:

  • remove as much of the cancer as possible

  • treat cancer that has caused a blocked bowel

  • drain a waterlogged kidney (hydronephrosis)

You might have chemotherapy with the aim of slowing down the growth of cancer that has spread elsewhere in the body. It can also help to control the symptoms of advanced womb cancer.

If you decide not to have treatment

You can have medicines to help control symptoms such as sickness or pain. Your doctor or nurse can let you know what could help you. You can also ask them to refer you to a local symptom control team to give you support at home.

  • British Gynaecological Cancer Society (BGCS) uterine cancer guidelines: recommendations for practice
    J Morrison and others
    European Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, March 2022. Volume 270, Pages 50 to 89

  • Endometrial cancer: ESMO Clinical Practice Guideline for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up

    A Oaknin and others

    Annals of Oncology, 2022

  • Endometrial cancer

    BMJ Best Practice, December 2023

    Accessed April 2024

  • The information on this page is based on literature searches and specialist checking. We used many references and there are too many to list here. If you need additional references for this information please contact with details of the particular risk or cause you are interested in.

Last reviewed: 
17 Apr 2024
Next review due: 
17 Apr 2027

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