Uterine Sarcoma Treatment Options and Side Effects
Uterine sarcoma treatment includes different approaches, depending on the nature of the tumor, stage of development and whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the body (metastatic uterine sarcoma) or not. In addition, the age and general health of the patient are usually considered by the medical team.
But in general, there are four main therapies used to therapeutically help women diagnosed with uterine sarcoma: surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and hormone therapy
Surgical Therapy – Surgery is the most common treatment of uterine sarcoma. The surgical procedure performed depends on the type, location and stage of the cancer. It may consist in hysterectomy, removal of the uterus; bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy, removal of the ovaries and fallopian tubes; or lymphadenectomy, removal of some lymph nodes in the pelvis and around the aorta.
Side Effects: while maybe helpful in curing or prolonging the life of the patient, these surgeries are associated with adverse effects. Even when successful, three to seven days of hospitalization are required, and recovery can take from two to six weeks, depending on the type of surgery performed. In addition, any woman undergoes any of these surgeries will not be able to have children. Removal of the ovaries will lead to menopause even if the woman was not at age at onset of menopause.
Radiotherapy – Radiation therapy consists of using x-rays or high energy radiation to damage the DNA of cancer cells in order to shrink the tumor. In uterine sarcoma treatment, the radiation is usually external, the rays come from a machine located outside the body. The radiation therapy can be used alone or in association with surgery.
Side Effects: uterine sarcoma radiation therapy side effects are less severe than those of surgery, regardless of the type of procedure. They include fatigue; irritation, infection, skin discoloration, diarrhea. Radiation to the pelvic area can also lead to premature menopause, irritation of the bladder, and vaginalstenosis (narrowing of the vagina due to the scar tissue).
Chemotherapy – this is a systematic treatment which involves the use of anti-cancer chemicals to kill cancer cells in the entire body. The chemotherapy agents may be given to the patient orally or by intravenous or intramuscular injection. The fact that chemo drugs affect the entire bloodstream, thus travel throughout the body and can kill cancer cells outside the uterus, they tend to cause more general side effects than radiotherapy and surgery.
Side effects: although the chemo affects cells of the entire body, its antineoplastic substances target mainly cells that quickly reproduce, which is the main nature of cancer cells. The problem is the fact certain other cells, in particular cells of the digestive tract, hair follicles and bone marrow, divide rapidly as well. These healthy cells are damaged by the chemotherapy which causes many side effects.
Uterine sarcoma chemotherapy tends to lead to paleness, decreased blood cells, infection, fatigue, temporary hair loss, sores in the mouth and/or vagina, menstrual changes and infertility. Patients do not experience these chemotherapy side effects all at once, and they usually disappear after cessation of the treatment and recovery. In addition, there are medicines or alternative treatments to reverse or minimize many of these adverse reactions.
Hormonal Therapy – In uterine sarcoma treatment, hormone therapy is the use of hormone-blocking drugs, generally in the form of pills, to reduce or stop the reproduction of cancer cells which need hormone to reproduce. This therapy is recommended mainly in the treatment of endometrial stromal sarcomas. Some of the drugs which can be prescribed include megestrol (Megace®) and medroxyprogesterone (Provera®), goserelin (Zoladex®) and leuprolide (Lupron®), letrozole (Femara®), anastrozole (Arimidex®).
Side Effects – some common side effects of hormonal drugs include increased blood sugar levels (in pre or diabetic patients), hot flashes, night sweats, weight gain (due to fluid retention and/or increased appetite), blood clots (rarely), vaginal dryness, weaken bones, osteoporosis, joint/muscle pain.
Uterine Sarcoma Prevention
The fact the causes of the cancer are not well known and there are few specific risk factors, establishing uterine sarcoma prevention methods is challenging. In general, there is no possible prevention.