Home > Health & Wellness > Health Library > Uterine Sarcoma Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Patient Information [NCI]
This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http://cancer.gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.
Uterine sarcoma is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the muscles of the uterus or other tissues that support the uterus.
The uterus is part of the female reproductive system. The uterus is the hollow, pear-shaped organ in the pelvis, where a fetus grows. The cervix is at the lower, narrow end of the uterus, and leads to the vagina. Anatomy of the female reproductive system. The organs in the female reproductive system include the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, cervix, and vagina. The uterus has a muscular outer layer called the myometrium and an inner lining called the endometrium.
Uterine sarcoma is a very rare kind of cancer that forms in the uterine muscles or in tissues that support the uterus. (Information about other types of sarcomas can be found in the PDQ summary on Soft Tissue Sarcoma Treatment.)
Uterine sarcoma is different from endometrial cancer, a disease in which cancer forms in the tissue that lines the uterus. Carcinosarcoma is a subtype of endometrial cancer and is staged using endometrial cancer definitions. (See the PDQ summary on Endometrial Cancer Treatment for information.)
Uterine sarcomas include leiomyosarcomas, endometrial stromal sarcomas, and adenosarcomas.
Past treatment with radiation therapy to the pelvis can increase the risk of uterine sarcoma.
Anything that increases your risk of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn't mean that you will not get cancer. Talk with your doctor if you think you may be at risk. Risk factors for uterine sarcoma include the following:
Signs of uterine sarcoma include abnormal bleeding.
Abnormal bleeding from the vagina and other signs and symptoms may be caused by uterine sarcoma or by other conditions. Check with your doctor if you have any of the following:
Tests that examine the uterus are used to diagnose uterine sarcoma.
The following tests and procedures may be used:
Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options.
The prognosis and treatment options depend on the following:
After uterine sarcoma has been diagnosed, tests are done to find out if cancer cells have spread within the uterus or to other parts of the body.
The process used to find out if cancer has spread within the uterus or to other parts of the body is called staging. The information gathered from the staging process determines the stage of the disease. It is important to know the stage in order to plan treatment. The following procedures may be used in the staging process:
Uterine sarcoma may be diagnosed, staged, and treated in the same surgery.
Surgery is used to diagnose, stage, and treat uterine sarcoma. During this surgery, the doctor removes as much of the cancer as possible. The following procedures may be used to diagnose, stage, and treat uterine sarcoma:
Treatment in addition to surgery may be given, as described in the Treatment Option Overview section of this summary.
There are three ways that cancer spreads in the body.
Cancer may spread from where it began to other parts of the body.
When cancer spreads to another part of the body, it is called metastasis. Cancer cells break away from where they began (the primary tumor) and travel through the lymph system or blood.
The metastatic tumor is the same type of cancer as the primary tumor. For example, if uterine sarcoma spreads to the lung, the cancer cells in the lung are actually uterine sarcoma cells. The disease is metastatic uterine sarcoma, not lung cancer.
Cancer can spread through tissue, the lymph system, and the blood:
The following FIGO staging system is used for leiomyosarcomas and endometrial stromal sarcomas:
In stage I, the tumor is found in the uterus only. Stage I is divided into stages IA and IB:
Tumor sizes are often measured in centimeters (cm) or inches. Common food items that can be used to show tumor size in cm include: a pea (1 cm), a peanut (2 cm), a grape (3 cm), a walnut (4 cm), a lime (5 cm or 2 inches), an egg (6 cm), a peach (7 cm), and a grapefruit (10 cm or 4 inches).
In stage II, the tumor has spread beyond the uterus but has not spread beyond the pelvis. Stage II is divided into stages IIA and IIB:
In stage III, the tumor has spread into tissues in the abdomen. Stage III is divided into stages IIIA, IIIB, and IIIC:
Stage IV is divided into stages IVA and IVB:
The following FIGO staging system is used for adenosarcomas:
In stage I, the tumor is found in the uterus only. Stage I is divided into stages IA, IB, and IC:
In stage II, the tumor has spread outside the uterus into the pelvis. Stage II is divided into stages IIA and IIB:
Uterine sarcoma can recur (come back) after it has been treated.
The cancer may come back in the uterus, the pelvis, or in other parts of the body.
There are different types of treatment for patients with uterine sarcoma.
Different types of treatments are available for patients with uterine sarcoma. Some treatments are standard (the currently used treatment), and some are being tested in clinical trials. A treatment clinical trial is a research study meant to help improve current treatments or obtain information on new treatments for patients with cancer. When clinical trials show that a new treatment is better than the standard treatment, the new treatment may become the standard treatment. Patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial. Some clinical trials are open only to patients who have not started treatment.
Four types of standard treatment are used:
Surgery is the most common treatment for uterine sarcoma, as described in the Stages of Uterine Sarcoma section of this summary.
After the doctor removes all the cancer that can be seen at the time of the surgery, some patients may be given chemotherapy or radiation therapy after surgery to kill any cancer cells that are left. Treatment given after the surgery, to lower the risk that the cancer will come back, is called adjuvant therapy.
Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. There are two types of radiation therapy:
The way the radiation therapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated. External and internal radiation therapy are used to treat uterine sarcoma, and may also be used as palliative therapy to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life.
Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. When chemotherapy is taken by mouth or injected into a vein or muscle, the drugs enter the bloodstream and can reach cancer cells throughout the body (systemic chemotherapy).
Hormone therapy is a cancer treatment that removes hormones or blocks their action and stops cancer cells from growing. Hormones are substances produced by glands in the body and circulated in the bloodstream. Some hormones can cause certain cancers to grow. If tests show the cancer cells have places where hormones can attach (receptors), drugs, surgery, or radiation therapy is used to reduce the production of hormones or block them from working.
New types of treatment are being tested in clinical trials.
Information about clinical trials is available from the NCI website.
Treatment for uterine sarcoma may cause side effects.
For information about side effects caused by treatment for cancer, see our Side Effects page.
Patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial.
For some patients, taking part in a clinical trial may be the best treatment choice. Clinical trials are part of the cancer research process. Clinical trials are done to find out if new cancer treatments are safe and effective or better than the standard treatment.
Many of today's standard treatments for cancer are based on earlier clinical trials. Patients who take part in a clinical trial may receive the standard treatment or be among the first to receive a new treatment.
Patients who take part in clinical trials also help improve the way cancer will be treated in the future. Even when clinical trials do not lead to effective new treatments, they often answer important questions and help move research forward.
Patients can enter clinical trials before, during, or after starting their cancer treatment.
Some clinical trials only include patients who have not yet received treatment. Other trials test treatments for patients whose cancer has not gotten better. There are also clinical trials that test new ways to stop cancer from recurring (coming back) or reduce the side effects of cancer treatment.
Clinical trials are taking place in many parts of the country. Information about clinical trials supported by NCI can be found on NCI's clinical trials search webpage. Clinical trials supported by other organizations can be found on the ClinicalTrials.gov website.
Follow-up tests may be needed.
Some of the tests that were done to diagnose the cancer or to find out the stage of the cancer may be repeated. Some tests will be repeated in order to see how well the treatment is working. Decisions about whether to continue, change, or stop treatment may be based on the results of these tests.
Some of the tests will continue to be done from time to time after treatment has ended. The results of these tests can show if your condition has changed or if the cancer has recurred (come back). These tests are sometimes called follow-up tests or check-ups.
For information about the treatments listed below, see the Treatment Option Overview section.
Treatment of stage I leiomyosarcoma of the uterus, stage I endometrial stromal sarcoma, and stage I adenosarcoma of the uterus may include the following:
Use our clinical trial search to find NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are accepting patients. You can search for trials based on the type of cancer, the age of the patient, and where the trials are being done. General information about clinical trials is also available.
Treatment of stage II leiomyosarcoma of the uterus, stage II endometrial stromal sarcoma, and stage II adenosarcoma of the uterus may include the following:
Treatment of stage III leiomyosarcoma of the uterus, stage III endometrial stromal sarcoma, and stage III adenosarcoma of the uterus may include the following:
There is no standard treatment for patients with stage IV leiomyosarcoma of the uterus, stage IV endometrial stromal sarcoma, or stage IV adenosarcoma of the uterus. Treatment may include a clinical trial using chemotherapy.
There is no standard treatment for recurrent uterine sarcoma. Treatment may include a clinical trial using chemotherapy.
For patients with recurrent carcinosarcoma (a certain type of tumor), treatment may include the following:
For more information from the National Cancer Institute about uterine sarcoma, see the Uterine Cancer Home Page.
For general cancer information and other resources from the National Cancer Institute, see the following:
Physician Data Query (PDQ) is the National Cancer Institute's (NCI's) comprehensive cancer information database. The PDQ database contains summaries of the latest published information on cancer prevention, detection, genetics, treatment, supportive care, and complementary and alternative medicine. Most summaries come in two versions. The health professional versions have detailed information written in technical language. The patient versions are written in easy-to-understand, nontechnical language. Both versions have cancer information that is accurate and up to date and most versions are also available in Spanish.
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Purpose of This Summary
This PDQ cancer information summary has current information about the treatment of uterine sarcoma. It is meant to inform and help patients, families, and caregivers. It does not give formal guidelines or recommendations for making decisions about health care.
Reviewers and Updates
Editorial Boards write the PDQ cancer information summaries and keep them up to date. These Boards are made up of experts in cancer treatment and other specialties related to cancer. The summaries are reviewed regularly and changes are made when there is new information. The date on each summary ("Updated") is the date of the most recent change.
The information in this patient summary was taken from the health professional version, which is reviewed regularly and updated as needed, by the PDQ Adult Treatment Editorial Board.
Clinical Trial Information
A clinical trial is a study to answer a scientific question, such as whether one treatment is better than another. Trials are based on past studies and what has been learned in the laboratory. Each trial answers certain scientific questions in order to find new and better ways to help cancer patients. During treatment clinical trials, information is collected about the effects of a new treatment and how well it works. If a clinical trial shows that a new treatment is better than one currently being used, the new treatment may become "standard." Patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial. Some clinical trials are open only to patients who have not started treatment.
Clinical trials can be found online at NCI's website. For more information, call the Cancer Information Service (CIS), NCI's contact center, at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237).
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The best way to cite this PDQ summary is:
PDQ® Adult Treatment Editorial Board. PDQ Uterine Sarcoma Treatment. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute. Updated <MM/DD/YYYY>. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/uterine/patient/uterine-sarcoma-treatment-pdq. Accessed <MM/DD/YYYY>. [PMID: 26389379]
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Last Revised: 2022-04-08
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