MOST FREQUENTLY DIAGNOSED GYNECOLOGIC CANCER
Cancer of the uterus is most commonly found within the organ’s inner lining called the endometrium. In the United States cancer of the endometrium, also known as endometrial carcinoma is the most frequently diagnosed gynecologic cancer. Cancer, known as uterine sarcoma, can also arise from the uterus’s muscle layer but it is far less common. To treat uterine cancer, a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy is usually necessary. Options may also include clinical trials.
Clinical research trials represent some of the most advanced treatment options. Click here to learn more.
DEVELOPMENT OF EVIDENCE BASED TREATMENT PLAN IMPORTANT
Whether you are coming to us with a first time diagnosis or a recurrent uterine cancer, our goal is to develop a cancer treatment plan personalized to your needs and lifestyle. Treatment planning begins with establishing the stage of the disease. Staging equates to disease progression; the higher the stage the more advanced the disease. Higher grade disease or higher stages may also be more likely to return. In early stages the primary uterine tumor is intact and the cancer cells have not yet broken away and invaded the muscle layer of the uterus and/or spread to tissues or organs outside the uterus.
Age, overall health, and fertility issues are also relevant considerations when building a treatment plan. By utilizing the latest treatment and technology options available our multidisciplinary team of doctors will work with you to create a cancer treatment plan that maximizes cancer fighting resources while minimizing the impact of the treatment on the rest of your body. Throughout your treatment, we’ll use imaging and laboratory tests to monitor your response to treatment, and modify your plan when needed. With onsite PET/CT and laboratory services at many of our sites, you won’t need to be inconvenienced having to travel to another location for these services.
EXPERIENCED, MULTI-SPECIALTY TEAM
Your care team will be led by one of our board-certified medical oncologists specialized in female reproductive cancers. Other specialists may include a board-certified gynecologic oncologist surgeon, a board-certified radiation oncologist and oncology nursing staff. Throughout every step of your treatment plan we will describe your treatment options, the expected results of each and how potential side effects may impact your normal activities. Our nationally recognized supportive care services team will ensure that you and your family have the educational and emotional resources you need to support you throughout your treatment. We are also united in healing with The US Oncology Network, which gives you access to the knowledge and expertise of not only our own physicians, but also nearly 1,000 physicians nationwide, including some of the national leaders in the field.
Surgical removal of the tumor either through a simple or radical hysterectomy is typically the first treatment protocol. Our board-certified gynecologic surgeon, specialized in surgery of the female reproductive system, utilizes the da Vinci robotic surgical system, the latest treatment option available. Studies have shown that compared to traditional surgery or laparoscopy patients who’ve had minimally invasive robotically assisted surgery tend to spend less time in the hospital, experience less pain and typically return to routine activities faster.
Chemotherapy and Targeted Therapies
Surgery is often followed by chemotherapy in combination with radiation, or on its own, to kill any residual cancer left behind. A chemotherapy regimen is typically given intravenously over several months in cycles with a treatment period followed by a rest period.
Molecular testing is sometimes done on the tumor sample to help identify DNA mutations unique to your cancer, enabling our doctors to tailor treatment and offer targeted therapy. Studies show that patients with recurrent disease and mutations in a pathway called PI3K/AKT/MTOR are benefitting from a targeted therapy called everolimus (Afinitor, RAD001). Angiogenesis inhibitors such as with the drug bevacizumab (Avastin) are also showing promising results. We offer many clinical trials and encourage our patients to participate in these whenever possible.
At Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers our radiation oncologists offer two types of uterine cancer radiation therapy: External beam radiation therapy (EBRT) and High-dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy. With HDR, radiation is delivered from within the tumor, through catheters (thin flexible tubes) or applicators, significantly reducing the risk of damage to surrounding healthy tissue or organs, and minimizing side effects.
COMPLEMENTARY CANCER TREATMENT THERAPIES
To help transform the cancer experience, our supportive care team works closely with patients to help coordinate treatment, discuss goals and values, provide family counseling, a link to community resources, and support for the integration of complementary therapies that patients may be interested in.
KNOW YOUR BODY AND FAMILY HISTORY
Endometrial Cancer usually develops slowly and most often occurs in post-menopausal women. Abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge should be reported to your doctor right away as this may be a result of benign tumors such as a fibroid or polyp, or a symptom of something more serious. Currently there are no diagnostic screenings specific to uterine cancer to help with early detection. Pelvic exams can find advanced cases and the Pap test (or Pap smear) can identify early cancers of the cervix (the lower part of the uterus) but neither of these tests is useful in identifying endometrial cancers.
Genetic counseling is an important piece of our gynecological oncology program. If you have a family history of colon or endometrial cancer you may benefit from genetic counseling and testing to learn if you are a carrier of a gene mutation known as hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer, (HNPCC, sometimes called Lynch syndrome), which can increase your own risk of endometrial cancer. Our certified genetic counselors recognize that discussing an increased cancer risk for yourself and your family can be a difficult and intimidating process and we’ll help you navigate the testing process and utilize the results to guide your care.