Progestin hormone therapy for endometrial cancer
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How It Works
Estrogen makes the lining of the uterus (endometrium) grow thicker. Late in your menstrual cycle, a drop in progesterone plays a part in the thick lining shedding away.
When there is too much estrogen in the body, progesterone can't do its job. The endometrium gets thicker and thicker. If the endometrium builds up and stays that way, cancer cells can start to grow.
Progestin hormone therapy is given as treatment for endometrial cancer. It is usually given in pill form.
Why It Is Used
Progestin hormone therapy may be used to slow the growth of endometrial cancer in:
- Stage IV when cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
- Stage III in the rare cases in which radiation therapy is not recommended.
- Recurrent endometrial cancer.
- Early-stage, low-grade cancer (rarely). This is an option for women who hope to be pregnant in the future and want to avoid a hysterectomy.
How Well It Works
The effectiveness of hormone therapy depends on the presence of proteins called hormone receptors in the cancer cells. Hormones can attach to hormone receptors and then interrupt the way the cancer grows. If tests show that your cancer has receptors for estrogen or progesterone hormones, progestin therapy may be successful in blocking cancer cell growth. Up to 30% of women receiving progestin hormone therapy for advanced endometrial cancer had a significant slowing in cancer cell growth. It is also effective in slowing growth in recurrent endometrial cancer.1
Progestin hormone therapy can cause side effects, including:
- Nausea or vomiting.
- Mild shortness of breath.
- Hot flashes or sweating.
- Decreased sex drive.
Serious side effects are rare but may include:
- An allergic reaction.
- Sudden severe headache.
- Changes in eyesight.
- Numbness or swelling in an arm or leg.
Progestin hormone therapy is also used as an appetite stimulant. You may experience an increased appetite, which could result in weight gain.
See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)
What To Think About
Progestin hormone therapy may be given to women who are unable to have surgery or radiation therapy.
Women who have endometrial cancer that has spread to other parts of the body may have a better prognosis for survival if they receive progestin hormone therapy.1
- National Cancer Institute (2008). Endometrial Cancer Treatment (PDQ): Health Professional Version. Available online: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/endometrial/healthprofessional.
- Ramirez PT, et al. (2004). Hormonal therapy for the management of grade I endometrial adenocarcinoma: A literature review. Gynecologic Oncology, 95: 133–138.
Last Updated: November 26, 2008