Uterine Cancer Treatment (<i>cont'd</i>)
- Chemotherapy: the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy is put into the body by inserting a needle into a vein. Chemotherapy is called a systemic treatment because the drugs enter the bloodstream, travel through the body and can kill cancer cells outside the uterus. Drugs used in treating uterine cancer may include doxorubicin, cisplatin and paclitaxel. Chemotherapy is not used very often with uterine cancer.
- Hormone therapy: the use of female hormones, usually taken by pill, to kill cancer cells. In cancer treatments, hormones such as progesterone (which occur naturally in the body to regulate growth of specific cells or organs) may be used to stop the growth of cancer cells.
Surgery is the most common treatment for sarcoma of the uterus: usually total abdominal hysterectomy, bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy and lymphadenectomy (removal of lymph nodes if cancer has spread to them). Other therapies — radiation, chemotherapy and hormone therapy — used to treat this disease are similar to those used for uterine cancer.
The treatments used against uterine cancer must be very powerful. It is rarely possible to limit the effects of cancer treatment so that only cancer cells are destroyed. Normal, healthy cells may be damaged at the same time. That's why the treatment often causes side effects.
Hysterectomy is major surgery that requires one to several days in the hospital, depending on the type of surgery performed. For several days after surgery, you may have problems emptying your bladder and having normal bowel movements. Normal activities, including sex, can be resumed in about one to two months.
After a hysterectomy, you no longer have menstrual periods. If your ovaries are removed, you will have symptoms of menopause, and they can initially be more severe than from natural menopause.
Although health care professionals say that sexual desire and the ability to have sex are not generally affected by hysterectomy, many women have an emotionally difficult time after a hysterectomy because their primary female organs have been removed. It means the loss of fertility and may, for some women, highlight the aging process. If you experience these feelings of loss or depression, you may want to seek professional counseling. In addition, you may need to take hormones, such as estrogen, to replace those that are no longer produced because the ovaries were removed.
During radiation therapy, you may notice a number of side effects, which usually disappear when treatment is completed, including skin reactions (redness or dryness) in the area being treated, tiredness, diarrhea, and frequent and uncomfortable urination. Treatment can also cause dryness, itching and burning in the vagina. Sex may be painful, and some women are advised not to have sexual relations during treatment time. Most women can resume sexual activity within a few weeks after treatment ends.