Uterine Cancer Treatment Options

All cancers, including uterine (endometrial) cancer, are diagnosed to be in a particular stage as your doctor assesses the gravity of your case. Like other types of cancer, uterine cancer treatment options revolve around the stage in which doctors define your tumors to be. As a result, your physician will first identify the stage of your uterine cancer before discussing your treatment options with you.

In this article, we will define the various stages of uterine cancer, as well as outline the associated treatment options for each stage.

The Stages of Uterine Cancer

Endometrial cancer is divided into four stages based on the size, location and shape of the tumor:

  • Stage I: As the first, least serious Stage of uterine cancer, stage I is marked by the cancer being localized to the lining of the uterus, known as the endometrium. At this point, Stage I is further sub-divided into either case A, in which the tumor has spread to less than 50 percent of the outer uterus layer (myometrium), or case B, in which the tumor had spread to over 50 percent of the myometrium.
  • Stage II: In this Stage, the tumor has spread throughout the whole body of the uterus (corpus) and the cervix. However, the cancerous growth hasnt spread outside of these structures. Like stage I, stage II is also divided into cases A and B. While in Stage IIA cancer is localized in the glands of the uterus and cervix, in Stage IIB it has spread into the regions connective tissues.
  • Stage III: This more serious stage of uterine cancer is marked by the spread of the tumors throughout the pelvic region. However, tumor growth hasnt spread outside of it. In Stage IIIA, cancerous growth has started in the outermost thin lining of the uterus (serosa), the ovaries and fallopian tubes (adnexa). In Stage IIIB, tumors have spread (metastasized) to the vagina. In Stage IIIC, cancerous cells have started growing in the lymph nodes.
  • Stage IV: This is the last, more serious Stage of uterine cancer describes situations in which the cancer has metastasized to different sites throughout the body, including the bladder and bowels.

Treatment by Stages

Because Stages I and II are less serious cases of uterine cancer than Stages III and IV, treatment options are slightly less intense. In the two earlier stages, doctors will take biopsies and may perform an abdominal hysterectomy or remove the ovaries if the tumors are especially high risk (i.e. appear to be growing rapidly and have the potential to metastasize).

Surgeries are often performed in conjunction with radiation to prevent the re-growth of cancerous cells. Typically, chemotherapy isnt prescribed until the later stages of uterine cancer.

If surgery and radiation dont prevent the progression of cancerous growths, then treatment will start to include chemotherapy sessions and possibly hormone replacement therapy to help combat the negative physical effects of low estrogen levels (i.e. symptoms of menopause). Further surgeries, such as a vaginal hysterectomy, may be needed at this point if the cancer has spread outside of the uterus.

Prognosis of Uterine Cancer

Cases of uterine cancer are far more likely to have a better outcome than other cases of pelvic cancer in women, such as ovarian or cervical cancer. Here is an outline of the survival rate associated with each stage of uterine cancer if treatment starts in that stage:

  • Stage I: 75 to 95 percent
  • Stage II: 50 percent
  • Stage III: 30 percent
  • Stage IV: less than 5 percent.

Resources

Wikipedia (2007). Endometrial Cancer. Retrieved June 21, 2007 from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endometrial_cancer.

National Cancer Institute (2007). Endometrial Cancer Treatment. Retrieved June 21, 2007 from: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/endometrial/HealthProfessional/page3.