Chemotherapy for womb cancer

Chemotherapy uses anti cancer (cytotoxic) drugs to destroy cancer cells. The drugs circulate throughout the body in the bloodstream.

You might have chemotherapy after surgery for womb cancer if you have:

  • high-intermediate or high risk cancer
  • type 2 (non endometrioid) cancer, such as clear cell womb cancer

You might also have chemotherapy for womb cancer that has come back. Paclitaxel and carboplatin are drugs commonly used.

When you have it

When you have surgery your surgeon sends what they remove for various tests in a laboratory. These tests help them work out the risk of your cancer coming back. You may need chemotherapy if your cancer is in a higher risk group. 

High-intermediate risk

You may have chemotherapy with radiotherapy or chemotherapy followed by radiotherapy, or both.

High risk 

You may have chemotherapy in one of the following ways:

  • chemotherapy with external radiotherapy and then more chemotherapy
  • chemotherapy followed by radiotherapy
  • chemotherapy on its own

You may also have the above treatments if you have stage 3 (locally advanced womb cancer) or stage 4 (advanced womb cancer), or type 2 (non-endometrioid) womb cancer. These are also high risk.

Some people with stage 3 or 4 womb cancer may have chemotherapy with immunotherapy. This will depend on your situation and whether you’ve had other treatments before.

Womb cancer that has come back

For womb cancer that has come back, you may have chemotherapy:

  • on its own 
  • with immunotherapy

Types of chemotherapy

You may have one drug or a combination of drugs to treat womb cancer. The most common types of chemotherapy drugs are:

  • paclitaxel
  • carboplatin
  • cisplatin
  • doxorubicin
  • cyclophosphamide

Check the name of the chemotherapy treatment with your doctor or nurse, then find out about it on our A to Z list of cancer drugs.

How you have chemotherapy

You usually have the chemotherapy as a drip into your vein (intravenously).

Into your bloodstream

You have treatment through a thin short tube (a cannula) that goes into a vein in your arm each time you have treatment.

Or you might have treatment through a long line: a central line, a PICC line or a portacath. These are long plastic tubes that give the drug into a large vein in your chest. The tube stays in place throughout the course of treatment.

Treatment cycles

You take some cancer medicines in treatment cycles. This means you take the drug for a set period, followed by a break. For example, you might take a drug every day for a week and then not take it for 2 weeks. This 3 week period in total is one cycle of treatment.

Take your cancer drugs exactly as your doctor, specialist nurse or pharmacist has told you to. The break from treatment is important too. For many cancer drugs, it allows your body to recover.

Where you have chemotherapy

You usually have treatment into your bloodstream at the cancer day clinic. You might sit in a chair for a few hours so it’s a good idea to take things in to do. For example, newspapers, books or electronic devices can all help to pass the time. You can usually bring a friend or family member with you.

You have some types of chemotherapy over several days. You might be able to have some drugs through a small portable pump that you take home.

For some types of chemotherapy you have to stay in a hospital ward. This could be overnight or for a couple of days.

Some hospitals may give certain chemotherapy treatments to you at home. Your doctor or nurse can tell you more about this.

Before you start chemotherapy

You need to have blood tests to make sure it’s safe to start treatment. You usually have these a few days before or on the day you start treatment. You have blood tests before each round or cycle of treatment.

Side effects

Common chemotherapy side effects include:

  • feeling sick
  • loss of appetite
  • losing weight
  • feeling very tired
  • increased risk of getting an infection
  • bleeding and bruising easily
  • diarrhoea or constipation
  • hair loss
Contact your doctor or nurse immediately if you have signs of infection. These include a temperature above 37.5C or below 36C, or generally feeling unwell. Infections can make you very unwell very quickly.

Side effects depend on:

  • which drugs you have
  • how much of each drug you have
  • how you react

Tell your treatment team about any side effects that you have.

Dietary or herbal supplements and chemotherapy

Let your doctors know if you:

  • take any supplements
  • have been prescribed anything by alternative or complementary therapy practitioners

It’s unclear how some nutritional or herbal supplements might interact with chemotherapy. Some could be harmful.

When you go home

Chemotherapy for womb cancer can be difficult to cope with. Tell your doctor or nurse about any problems or side effects that you have. The nurse will give you telephone numbers to call if you have any problems at home.

  • Endometrial cancer: ESMO Clinical Practice Guideline for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up
    A Oaknin and others
    Annals of Oncology, 2022. Volume 33, Issue 9, Pages: 860 to 877 

  • British Gynaecological Cancer Society (BGCS) uterine cancer guidelines: recommendations for practice

    J Morrison and others

    European Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, March 2022. Volume 270, Pages 50 to 89

  • Endometrial cancer

    BMJ Best Practice, December 2023

    Accessed April 2024

Last reviewed: 
11 Apr 2024
Next review due: 
11 Apr 2027

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