Hormone therapy for cancer of the uterus
Hormone therapy may also be called endocrine therapy or hormone-blocking therapy. Hormones such as oestrogen and progesterone are substances that are produced naturally in the body. They help control the growth and activity of cells. Some cancers of the uterus depend on oestrogen or progesterone to grow. These are known as hormone-dependent or hormone-sensitive cancers and can sometimes be treated with hormone therapy.
Hormone therapy may be recommended for uterine cancer that has spread or come back (recurred), particularly if it is a low-grade cancer. It is also sometimes offered as the first treatment if surgery has not been done (e.g. when a woman with early-stage, low-grade uterine cancer chooses not to have a hysterectomy because she wants to have children, or if a person is too unwell for surgery).
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How hormone therapy is given
The main hormone therapy for hormone-dependent cancer of the uterus is progesterone that has been produced in a laboratory. High-dose progesterone is available in tablet form (usually medroxyprogesterone) or through a hormone-releasing intrauterine device (IUD) called a Mirena, which is placed into the uterus by your doctor (if you have not had a hysterectomy). Other hormone drugs may be available on clinical trials. Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of the different methods.
The common side effects of progesterone treatment include:
- breast tenderness
- menstrual changes
In high doses, progesterone may increase appetite and cause weight gain. If you have an IUD, it may move out of place and need to be refitted by your doctor.
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A/Prof Jim Nicklin, Director, Gynaecological Oncology, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, and Associate Professor Gynaecologic Oncology, The University of Queensland, QLD; Dr Robyn Cheuk, Senior Radiation Oncologist, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, QLD; Prof Michael Friedlander, Medical Oncologist, The Prince of Wales Hospital and Conjoint Professor of Medicine, The University of NSW, NSW; Kim Hobbs, Clinical Specialist Social Worker, Gynaecological Cancer, Westmead Hospital, NSW; Adele Hudson, Statewide Clinical Nurse Consultant, Gynaecological Oncology Service, Royal Hobart Hospital, TAS; Dr Anthony Richards, Gynaecological Oncologist, The Royal Women’s Hospital and Joan Kirner Women’s and Children’s Hospital, VIC; Georgina Richter, Gynaecological Oncology Clinical Nurse Consultant, Royal Adelaide Hospital, SA; Deb Roffe, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA.
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