Anti-cancer drugs — chemotherapy — also travel through the bloodstream to almost every area of the body. Chemotherapy is used for only a minority of women with uterine malignancies. Drugs used to treat cancer may be given in different ways: some are given by mouth; others are injected into a muscle, a vein or an artery. Chemotherapy is most often given in cycles: a treatment period, followed by a rest period, then another treatment period, and so on. Many of the side effects of chemotherapy have been reduced over the years because the drugs have been refined or drugs for the side effects are better used. The side effects of chemotherapy depend on the drugs given and the individual response of the patient. Chemotherapy commonly affects cells that rapidly divide. Cancer cells divide more rapidly than normal cells, but other cells that divide rapidly are hair cells, blood-forming cells and cells lining the digestive tract. As a result, patients may have side effects such as hair loss, lowered blood counts, nausea or vomiting. Most side effects end after treatment is stopped.
Loss of appetite can be a serious problem for women receiving radiation therapy or chemotherapy. Women who eat well are better able to withstand the side effects of treatment. So, nutrition is an important part of the treatment plan. Eating well means getting enough calories to prevent weight loss and having enough protein in the diet to build and repair skin, hair, muscles and organs. Many women say that eating several small meals throughout the day is easier than eating three large meals.
The side effects that patients have during all of these cancer therapies vary from person to person and may even be different from one treatment to the next. Your health care professional will try to plan treatment to keep problems to a minimum, and fortunately, most side effects are temporary. It’s important to tell your health care professional about your reactions and side effects because he or she may be able to adjust treatments to help you feel better.
Regular follow-up exams are very important for any woman who has been treated for cancer of the uterus. The health care professional will want to watch you closely for several years to be sure that the cancer has not returned. Most follow-up examinations include a regular pelvic exam and a chest X-ray.