A common birth control device appears to be effective in treating early-stage endometrial cancer in obese and high-risk surgery patients, say gynecologic oncologists at aid Georgia Health Sciences University.
Endometrial cancer, which starts in the lining of the uterus, is the third most common gynecologic cancer, striking more than 47,000 American women every year, particularly the obese. "Total hysterectomy, sometimes with removal of 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 surgery," said Dr. Sharad Ghamande (pictured), principal investigator on the study.
Ghamande's work is based on observations of a small group of high-risk patients with early-stage endometrioid adenocarcinoma, a common subtype of endometrial cancer, and those with atypical endometrial hyperplasia (thickening of the uterine lining), which can lead to cancer.
The patients involved were treated with an intrauterine device that releases the progestin levonorgestrel, successfully used for the past decade as a contraceptive.
Ghamande explained that the endometrial stripe (thickness of the endometrium) was measured before the study and at the three- and six-month marks. The stripe's progressive thinning at each stage demonstrated the effectiveness of the treatment. Importantly, subsequent endometrial biopsies found reversal of abnormal cell growth in all patients.
Ghamande's group also analyzed 13 published studies and found a complete pathological response in 91.3 percent of cases, with no progression of disease, confirming their findings. The study also validated use of transvaginal ultrasound, commonly used to diagnose endometrial cancer, as a useful follow-up tool in assessing endometrial cancer treatment.
"Thirty to 35 percent of women with hyperplasia will go on to develop endometrial cancer, and in 30 percent of these cases, women will present with a co-existing cancer," said Ghamande. "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."
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Source: Georgia Health Sciences University