Birth Control for Uterine Cancer?

Endometrial cancer treatment with an intrauterine hormone device instead of surgery

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Every surgery comes with risks. Cancer specialists are searching for ways to treat early stage uterine cancer without surgery—and results are looking good.

A recent study tried using intrauterine devices on early stage endometrial cancer patients. To further support their findings, researchers dug up 13 other studies with similar results.

Results of this study found reduction of both endometrial cancers in all patients.

Using a transvaginal ultrasound at the start, 3-month and 6-month marks, researchers were able to see each patient’s endometrial stripe, which is the thickness of the uterine wall.

"Caner treatments vary - ask about your options."

Sharad Ghamande, MD, chief of Gynecologic Oncology at the Medical College of Georgia and gynecologic surgeon and oncologist at the Georgia Health Sciences University Cancer Center, led this investigation.

Dr. Ghamande said, “Total hysterectomy (removal of the uterus and ovaries), sometimes with removal of the lymph nodes, is the most common treatment for this type of cancer.”

“But women who are morbidly obese or who have cardiac risk factors are not good candidates for this surgery.”

For this small study, 15 early-stage, endometrial cancer patients were fitted with the levonorgestrel intrauterine device (IUD), brand name Mirena.

The T-shaped IUD is about the size of a quarter and releases the hormone levonogestrel, which is a form of progestin, into the body.

The IUD was inserted through the vagina into the uterus. For the purposes of this study, the device remained intact for 2 years.

Each of the patients was considered high-risk for surgical options due to cardiac risk factors and/or obesity. The average body mass index was 47.5, ranging from 33.8-73.

About half of the patients had atypical hyperplasia, which is a thickening of the uterine lining and can be a precursor to cancer, and the other half had adenocarcinoma, a subtype of uterine cancer

Over time the uterine stripe had decreased in thickness from an average of 11.25 mm to 5.19 mm.

Each of the patients also had a biopsy done of their uterine tissue to verify reduction of cancerous or abnormal cell growth.

Researchers also evaluated 13 other published studies that included 147 atypical hyperplasias and 19 low-grade endometrial cancers.

Results of those studies showed a 95 percent reduction in these cancers, 7 partial responses and 1 progression of cancer.

Dr. Ghamande said, “Traditional treatments can result in postoperative complications and morbidity, not only in patients at high risk. But we may succeed in establishing a lower-risk and more cost-effective way of managing this cancer in all women.”

The levonogestral IUD has been on the market since 2000. It is covered by many insurance plans or can cost an average of $500-$750 out-of-pocket.

This research was presented at the 14th Biennial Meeting of the International Gynecologic Cancer Society from October 13-16, 2012 in Vancouver, Canada.

All research is considered preliminary until it has been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

No financial information was given for this study. No conflicts of interest were reported.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 23, 2012
Last Updated:
October 24, 2012