Hormone therapy for womb cancer

Hormones can stimulate some womb cancer cells to grow. Hormone therapy for womb cancer works by interfering with the hormone balance in the body. This means there are smaller amounts of hormones that some cancers depend on to grow.

One of the most common types of hormone therapy used for womb cancer is medroxyprogesterone acetate.

What are hormones?

Hormones are natural substances made by glands Open a glossary item in our bodies. The network of glands that make hormones is called the endocrine system.

Hormones are carried around the body in our bloodstream. They act as messengers between one part of the body and another. They are responsible for many functions in our body, including the growth and activity of certain cells and organs. 

How does hormone therapy work?

The hormones oestrogen and progesterone affect the growth and activity of the cells that line the womb. They regulate the women’s reproductive cycle.

The most common type of womb cancer, endometrioid adenocarcinoma, uses excess oestrogen to grow or develop. This means the cancer is hormone sensitive or hormone dependent. If your cancer is hormone sensitive, you might have hormone therapy.

Doctors use the hormone therapy progesterone to treat womb cancer. Progesterone counteracts the effect of oestrogen.

When do you have hormone therapy?

Hormone therapy for womb cancer that has come back

You may have hormone therapy for a low grade womb cancer that has come back (recurrence). This is usually after treatments such as surgery or radiotherapy.

Hormone therapy for advanced womb cancer

For advanced womb cancer, you may have hormone therapy for a low grade cancer. This is usually if surgery to reduce the size of the cancer is not possible.

Hormone therapy to preserve fertility

Women who have low risk womb cancer (stage 1A grade 1), have not been through the menopause and would like to have children may be able to have treatment that preserves their fertility. This means having treatment with hormone therapy.

You will need to have treatment in a specialist centre. This might not be your nearest hospital. This is not standard treatment. So it is important to talk to your specialist about your options and the possible risks.

Types of hormone therapy

The most common hormone therapy for womb cancer that has come back or that is advanced is progesterone. Types of progesterone include:

  • medroxyprogesterone acetate (Provera)
  • megestrol acetate (Megace)

Other hormone therapies that are sometimes used to treat womb cancer include:

  • tamoxifen
  • letrozole

The type of drug you have will depend on your situation.

Check what is the name of the hormone therapy with your doctor or nurse, then take a look at our A to Z list of cancer drugs.

Hormone therapy for endometrial stromal sarcoma

For a type of womb cancer called endometrial stromal sarcoma, you may have hormonal treatments. This is when the cancer is advanced or metastatic.

Types of drugs include:

  • letrozole (Femara)
  • megestrol acetate (Megace)
  • medroxyprogesterone (Provera)

How you have treatment

The above treatments are tablets that you take at home.

Side effects

The main side effects associated with hormone therapy for womb cancer are:

  • water retention

  • weight gain (caused by water retention)

  • breast discomfort

  • tiredness

  • feeling sick

  • loss of desire for sex

Most people only have one or two of these side effects. If you have side effects, tell your nurse or doctor. They might be able to help.

  • 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. Volume 33, Issue 9, Pages: 860 to 877 

  • Endometrial cancer

    BMJ Best Practice, December 2023

    Accessed March 2024

  • The effect of progestin therapy in advanced and recurrent endometrial cancer: A systematic review and meta-analysis

    W van Weelden and others

    British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (BJOG), 2023 January. Volume 130, Issue 2, Pages: 143 to152

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

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