Hormone Therapy for Endometrial Cancer
NYU Langone doctors often prescribe hormone therapy for premenopausal women who have endometrial cancer that hasn’t penetrated beyond the lining and into the wall of the uterus. Our doctors may also prescribe hormone therapy to prevent a cancer recurrence in women who are too ill to have surgery or for women who are in menopause, either due to their age or surgery.
Hormone therapy slows the growth of tumors that have receptors to the hormones estrogen and progesterone, which affect how some endometrial tumors grow. Low levels of progesterone and higher levels of estrogen in the body increase the risk of endometrial cancer. The receptors to these hormones can be identified through an endometrial biopsy, in which a sample of endometrial tissue is examined under a microscope.
Hormones are usually prescribed for several months. During this time, your doctor checks your response to this therapy. If the cancer has responded completely, hormone therapy can be discontinued.
Doctors at NYU Langone use several types of hormone therapy for women with endometrial cancer.
Synthetic progestins, which mimic the activity of the hormone progesterone, are often used to slow the growth of endometrial tumors. These medications block the activity of estrogen and may be given as an injection or as pills.
Women with early endometrial cancer or endometrial hyperplasia, a thickening of the uterine lining, may choose to use an intrauterine device called Mirena®, a method of birth control that contains the progestin levonorgestrel.
After a woman’s ovaries have been removed, the body continues to convert hormones in fat cells into estrogen with the help of an enzyme called aromatase. Your doctor may prescribe aromatase inhibitors to lower estrogen levels if your ovaries have been removed or you are in menopause. These medications are taken by mouth.
Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone Agonists
Gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists may be used to prevent the ovaries from producing estrogen in premenopausal women with endometrial cancer. These medications are given by injection every one to three months.
The side effects of hormone therapy may include symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness. Progestins can cause bloating and an increase in appetite, so some women also experience weight gain after using progestins.