Uterine Sarcoma

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Treating Uterine Sarcoma TOPICS

Hormone therapy for uterine sarcomas

Hormone therapy is the use of hormones or hormone-blocking drugs to fight cancer. It is mainly used to treat patients with endometrial stromal sarcomas and is rarely used for the other types of uterine sarcomas.

Progestins

Progesterone-like hormones such as megestrol (Megace®) or medroxyprogesterone (Provera®) can be used. Side effects can include increased blood sugar levels in patients with diabetes. Hot flashes, night sweats, and weight gain (from fluid retention and an increased appetite) also occur. Rarely, serious blood clots are seen in patients taking progestins.

Gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists

Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GNRH) agonists switch off estrogen production by the ovaries. These drugs are useful in lowering estrogen levels in women who are premenopausal. Examples of GNRH agonists include goserelin (Zoladex®) and leuprolide (Lupron®). These drugs are injected every 1 to 3 months. Side effects can include any of the symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness. If they are taken for a long time, these drugs can weaken bones, sometimes leading to osteoporosis.

Aromatase inhibitors

After the ovaries are removed, or are not functioning, estrogen is still made in fat tissue. This becomes the body's main source of estrogen. Drugs called aromatase inhibitors can stop this estrogen from being formed. Examples of aromatase inhibitors include letrozole (Femara®), anastrozole (Arimidex®), and exemestane (Aromasin®). These drugs are most often used to treat breast cancer, but they may be helpful in the treatment of endometrial stromal sarcoma. Side effects can include any of the symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness, as well as joint/muscle pain. If they are taken for a long time (years), these drugs can weaken bones, sometimes leading to osteoporosis.

Tamoxifen

Tamoxifen is an anti-estrogen drug that is often used to treat breast cancer. It can also be used to treat endometrial stromal sarcoma. The goal of tamoxifen therapy is to prevent any estrogens circulating in the woman’s body from stimulating growth of the cancer cells. Even though tamoxifen may prevent estrogen from nourishing the cancer cells, it acts like a weak estrogen in other areas of the body. It does not cause bone loss but can cause hot flashes and vaginal dryness. People taking tamoxifen also have an increased risk of serious blood clots in the legs.


Last Medical Review: 01/22/2013
Last Revised: 02/12/2014