Chemotherapy is the administration of cancer-fighting medication (cytotoxic drugs) to destroy cancer cells. Early-stage uterine cancer probably does not require chemotherapy.

When chemotherapy is administered

Chemotherapy can be given after surgery, also radiotherapy can be administered to lower the risk of the cancer returning (adjuvant chemotherapy).

There may be a higher risk of the cancer returning if:

  • It is a high-grade tumor (grade 3)
  • It is not of the endometrial type
  • It has spread into the lymph nodes

Your specialist will talk to you about the possible benefits and side effects of chemotherapy to decide which is the best option for each case. In some situations, chemotherapy can be given instead of radiotherapy following surgery. It can also be given before surgery to reduce the tumor's size before it is removed, or to treat the cancer after the operation is over.

Advanced cancer

If the cancer spreads to other parts of the body, chemotherapy may be given to help control and relieve symptoms without causing too many side effects. This is sometimes called palliative treatment.

How is the chemotherapy administered?

Chemotherapy is usually given in the day hospital through an injection in a vein (intravenous) through:

  • A fine, thin tube inserted into one of the veins in your hand or arm.
  • A PICC line: a thin plastic tube placed in a vein on the interior part of your arm.
  • A central line: a plastic tube placed in a vein in your chest.

Chemotherapy is usually given during as part of a treatment session. After each session, you will normally have a period of rest lasting for a few weeks. This lets your body recover from the side effects.

The treatment and rest period make up one treatment cycle. Your specialist will talk to you about how many cycles you are going to have.

The drugs used

Some widely used drugs to treat uterine cancer are:

  • carboplatin
  • cisplatin
  • doxorubicin
  • paclitaxel

Other drugs may also be used. A combination of several drugs or just one may be given. If you receive adjuvant chemotherapy, it is most common to have a combination of several. Your doctor or nurse will tell you more about chemotherapy treatment.