Endometrial cancer treatments typically start with surgery to take out the uterus and ovaries, and can include other options as well. Patients diagnosed with endometrial cancer who are planning on having children can discuss treatment options with their doctors; having this cancer does not necessarily mean a patient cannot have children. Care is usually supervised by an oncologist, a cancer specialist, and a gynecological surgeon may be involved as well.
In endometrial cancer, the lining of the uterus, known as the endometrium, begins to experience uncontrolled cell growth. Tumors develop and can spread through the pelvis into other areas of the body. The goal with endometrial cancer treatments is to remove the cancer, if possible, and halt the spread of the cancer even if it cannot be removed. When caught early, this condition is very treatable, and endometrial cancer treatments are always being improved with clinical trials and research.
For patients who would benefit from surgery, follow-up chemotherapy, radiation, and/or hormone treatment may be recommended to prevent recurrence of the cancer or to address metastases. In patients with advanced cancer, surgery may not have any benefits, but targeting the cancer with hormones to suppress growth and radiation to kill cancer cells can be helpful. Extremely advanced cancers may best be treated with palliative care to keep the patient comfortable in the end stages of the cancer without subjecting her to the grueling side effects of chemotherapy and radiation.
Patients who want children and have a low grade endometrial cancer with no sign of metastases have two options when it comes to endometrial cancer treatments. One is to take hormones to shrink and control the cancer while getting pregnant and carrying the baby to term. Once the baby is delivered, surgery can be performed to remove the ovaries and uterus. Another option is egg donation, where the surgery takes place and eggs are harvested for insemination. The embryos can be carried by a surrogate.
Patients coping with a diagnosis of endometrial cancer should ask about the prognosis, the endometrial cancer treatments available to them, and what kinds of outcomes they can expect with different treatments. If there are concerns about having children or worries about side effects, such as entering menopause early as a result of the removal of the ovaries, patients should discuss these thoroughly with their doctors before making a decision about treatment. Knowing what to expect ahead of time and what kinds of options are available can help people feel less overwhelmed by a cancer diagnosis.