Gynecologic Cancer Treatments
Cancer specialists at UT Southwestern Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center offer the latest treatments for gynecologic cancers. Based on the diagnosis, we work with patients to determine the right treatment plan for every individual.
Surgical Cancer Treatments
Gynecologic cancer is different for every woman, and surgery is often part of the treatment plan to remove as much of the tumor as possible. Reducing the size of the tumor improves the efficiency of subsequent chemotherapy or radiation therapy because there will be less tumor to treat.
When surgery is part of a patient’s individualized treatment plan, specialists at UT Southwestern use minimally invasive techniques or open techniques such as radical tumor debulking surgery, radical hysterectomy, or radical vulvectomy to achieve the best possible surgical outcome. Our gynecologic cancer experts are trained in both advanced laparoscopic or robot-assisted minimally invasive surgery to help patients recover faster, return to their normal lifestyle, or start the next phase of treatment sooner.
Our team also has special expertise in dealing with complications from prior gynecologic cancer therapies. These complications can result in fistulas that require repair by our experienced surgeons.
Types of Surgery for Gynecologic Cancers
Different kinds of gynecologic cancers benefit from different kinds of procedures. Surgery typically involves removal of the tumor but might also include removal of the cervix, uterus, ovaries, or other pelvic organs.
Surgical procedures for gynecologic cancers include:
- Debulking surgery: Removes as much of the tumor as possible, typically in preparation for chemotherapy so there will be less tumor to treat. This technique is used most often for ovarian, fallopian tube, and primary peritoneal cancers.
- Total hysterectomy: Removes the uterus and the cervix.
- Radical hysterectomy: Removes the uterus, cervix, and part of the vagina; might also remove the ovaries, fallopian tubes, or nearby lymph nodes. This technique is most commonly used for cervical cancers.
- Unilateral salpingo-oophorectomy: Removes one ovary and one fallopian tube.
- Bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy: Removes both ovaries and both fallopian tubes.
- Omentectomy: Removes the omentum (a fat pad within the abdominal cavity).
- Lymph node removal: Removes some or all lymph nodes affected by cancer.
- Radical vulvectomy: Removes cancerous growth occurring on the vulva skin.
- Fertility-preserving surgery for cervical cancer: This is also called a radical trachelectomy, a technique that enables the preservation of the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tube while removing the cervix.
Fertility-Preserving Treatment for Gynecologic Cancers
Endometrial, ovarian, and cervical cancers can occur in women who are of reproductive age. Our gynecologic oncologists are experts at providing fertility-preserving treatments for all of the above cancers when appropriate.
Treating Gynecologic Cancer with Medications
Cancer treatments that use medications are an option for some women with gynecologic cancer, depending on the type and stage of the cancer. Our gynecologic oncologists might prescribe:
- Chemotherapy: Uses drugs, usually injected into a vein or given by mouth, to kill cancer cells
- Immunotherapy: Involves stimulation of the immune system to help the body better fight gynecologic cancer
- Hormone therapy: Uses hormones to treat and prevent recurrences of some types of gynecologic cancers
Intraperitoneal chemotherapy is an intricate and unique treatment that delivers chemotherapy drugs directly into the abdominal cavity through a catheter. Administered in some ovarian cancer cases, it directly targets cancer cells in the abdomen, minimizing drug exposure to healthy tissues. Only highly experienced gynecologic and surgical oncologists such as those in UT Southwestern’s gynecologic cancer program are able to offer this type of intense treatment.
Radiation therapy is an essential treatment for most gynecologic cancers, whether it’s used as a primary/curative treatment or postoperatively, as an adjuvant therapy.
UT Southwestern maintains a state-of-the-art brachytherapy suite dedicated to treating cancers of the female reproductive system. Image-guided brachytherapy is very effective at killing gynecologic tumors while preserving the surrounding organs.
In the brachytherapy procedure, various applicators are inserted while the patient is under anesthesia. These applicators temporarily conduct a radioactive source to targeted tumor areas with a high level of precision.
The direct implantation of needles into a tumor is an often-complex procedure that requires a specialist to perform. In addition to our dedicated radiation oncologists, who are experts at the procedure, a team of gynecologic nurses, therapists, and anesthesiologists care for our gynecologic patients.