What is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer (cytotoxic) drugs to destroy cancer cells. The drugs are carried in the blood and can reach cancer cells anywhere in the body. If you have early-stage womb cancer, you are unlikely to need chemotherapy.

When chemotherapy is used for womb cancer

To reduce the risk of cancer coming back

You may have chemotherapy to reduce the risk of womb cancer coming back after other treatments. This is called adjuvant chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy is sometimes offered after surgery and radiotherapy. Or, in some situations, you may have chemotherapy after surgery instead of radiotherapy.

There may be more risk of the cancer coming back if the cancer is:

Your specialist will talk to you about the possible benefits and side effects of chemotherapy. You can then decide if it is right for you.

You may sometimes have chemotherapy before surgery to shrink the cancer before it is removed. This is called neo-adjuvant chemotherapy.

To control the cancer and relieve symptoms

You may have chemotherapy to help control cancer and relieve symptoms. This may happen if:

  • it is not possible to remove all the cancer with an operation
  • the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

This is sometimes called palliative treatment. Your cancer doctor or specialist nurse will explain what it involves and the likely side effects.

Chemotherapy drugs used for womb cancer

You may have a combination of two or three chemotherapy drugs, or just one. If you are having adjuvant chemotherapy, you are more likely to have a combination of drugs. The drugs commonly used to treat womb cancer are:

Other drugs may also be used. Your doctor or specialist nurse will explain more about the chemotherapy treatment.

Having chemotherapy for womb cancer

You usually have chemotherapy in a chemotherapy day unit and go home after it. The drugs are usually given into a vein (intravenously).

Chemotherapy is given as one or more sessions of treatment. Each session takes a few hours. After the session, you will have a rest period of a few weeks. The chemotherapy session and the rest period is called a cycle of treatment.

The length of a cycle depends on the chemotherapy drugs you have. But most cycles are 1 to 3 weeks long. Your cancer doctor or nurse will explain what to expect. Most courses of chemotherapy are made up of 6 cycles.

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