Chemotherapy for womb cancer

Chemotherapy may be given to reduce the risk of womb cancer coming back, or to control cancer and relieve symptoms.

What is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer (cytotoxic) drugs to destroy cancer cells. The drugs are carried in the blood and can reach cancer cells anywhere in the body. If you have early-stage womb cancer (also known as endometrial or uterine cancer) you are unlikely to need chemotherapy.

We have more information on chemotherapy.

When chemotherapy is used for womb cancer

To reduce the risk of cancer coming back

Chemotherapy is sometimes offered after surgery and radiotherapy. You may have chemotherapy after surgery  instead of radiotherapy. The aim is to reduce the risk of womb cancer coming back. This is called adjuvant chemotherapy.

There may be more risk of the cancer coming back if the cancer is:

Your cancer doctor will talk to you about the possible benefits and side effects of chemotherapy. You can then decide if it is right for you.

You may sometimes have chemotherapy before surgery to shrink the cancer before it is removed. This is called neo-adjuvant chemotherapy.

To control the cancer and relieve symptoms

You may have chemotherapy to help control cancer and relieve symptoms. This may happen if:

  • it is not possible to remove all the cancer with an operation
  • the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

This is sometimes called palliative treatment. Your cancer doctor or specialist nurse will explain what it involves and the likely side effects.

Chemotherapy drugs used for womb cancer

The drugs commonly used to treat womb cancer are:

Other drugs may also be used. You may have one drug, or you may have 2 or 3 drugs together. If you are having adjuvant chemotherapy, you are more likely to have a combination of drugs. Your cancer doctor or specialist nurse will explain more about your treatment options.

Having chemotherapy

You usually have chemotherapy in a chemotherapy day unit and go home after it. The drugs are given into a vein (intravenously).

Chemotherapy is given as one or more sessions of treatment. Each session takes a few hours. After the session, you usually have a rest period of a few weeks. The chemotherapy session and the rest period is called a cycle of treatment.

The length of a cycle depends on the chemotherapy drugs you have. Most cycles are 1 to 3 weeks long. Sometimes it is given every 4 weeks. Your cancer doctor or specialist nurse will explain what to expect. Most courses of chemotherapy are made up of 6 cycles.

Side effects of chemotherapy

Chemotherapy drugs can cause side effects. But many of these can be controlled with medicines and usually go away when your treatment finishes. If the cancer is causing symptoms, chemotherapy can also make you feel better by relieving them.

Each different chemotherapy drug has different side effects. Your doctor, nurse or pharmacist will explain what to expect. Always tell your doctor or nurse about any side effects you have.

About our information

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    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Senior Medical Editor, Professor Nick Reed, Consultant Clinical Oncologist.

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