For most people with uterine cancer, treatment is effective, but in some people, uterine cancer can recur either in the uterus or in another part of the body.

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When caught early, uterine cancers are very treatable. Endometrial cancer is the most common form of uterine cancer, and nearly 85% of people with uterine cancer are likely to live at least 5 years after diagnosis, thanks to newer, highly effective treatments.

But highly effective treatments aren’t always enough. Unless you have all your reproductive organs removed during cancer treatment, there is a chance that you could develop uterine cancer again or that cancer could return in a different area of your body.

This article will explore how likely uterine cancer is to return after treatment, how soon this can happen, and how doctors might treat a recurrence.

What is endometrial cancer?

Endometrial cancer is the most common form of uterine cancer. Learn more about the symptoms, risk factors, and treatment options.

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In a 2022 study involving 594 people who had received initial treatment for uterine cancer, about 17% experienced a recurrence. Recurrences are most common within 2 years of initial uterine cancer treatment.

The researchers found that people who experienced a recurrence had a higher grade tumor at diagnosis and had been treated with chemoradiation and other therapies.

According to several studies referenced in a 2021 review, 7–15% of people who receive a diagnosis of early stage uterine cancer (stage 1 or 2) experience a recurrence, and the risk depends on the tumor type, the tumor grade, and other factors.

When uterine cancer returns, it’s most commonly found in areas such as the vagina and pelvis. Recurrences are usually diagnosed due to symptoms such as bleeding rather than through screenings at planned follow-up appointments.

According to one study cited in a 2021 review, in about half of people who experience a uterine cancer recurrence, the cancer returns in areas close to the original cancer. Another 25% experience recurrences in other areas of the body, and 25% have recurrences in the area of the uterus plus other distant parts of the body.

A combination of chemotherapy and radiation is the most common treatment for recurrence of uterine cancer.

In a 2022 study involving 101 people who experienced a recurrence of uterine cancer, 68% had been treated with adjuvant therapies after their initial diagnosis. Adjuvant therapies are treatments aimed at killing any remaining initial cancer cells to help prevent recurrence.

This category includes therapies such as:

Your cancer risk after a hysterectomy depends on exactly what surgeons remove during the surgery. There are several types of hysterectomy:

  • Partial hysterectomy: removal of only the upper part of your uterus, leaving your cervix and the lower part of your uterus in place
  • Total hysterectomy: removal of your entire uterus, including your cervix
  • Radical hysterectomy: removal of your uterus, your cervix, the upper part of your vagina, and tissues around your cervix

Your ovaries and fallopian tubes may also be removed, depending on your individual cancer risk.

Any tissues left behind could still develop cancer. Your healthcare team will discuss with you what should be removed based on your specific cancer risk and diagnosis.

The end of treatment for uterine cancer can bring a mixture of relief and worry. If you haven’t had a radical hysterectomy to treat your uterine cancer, you could be at risk of a recurrence.

After a hysterectomy, you will likely have a vaginal cuff, stitches that close the vagina at the top where your uterus and cervix were. This is a likely place for uterine cancer to recur locally. To help reduce this risk, you may also have a radiation boost to the vaginal cuff in the form of external beam radiation therapy or brachytherapy.

Regular follow-up exams with healthcare professionals are an important part of your postcancer treatment plan, in addition to taking steps such as:

  • eating a balanced diet
  • making efforts to maintain a moderate weight
  • quitting smoking (if you smoke)
  • getting regular exercise

Overall, uterine cancer is very treatable, but recurrence rates are a real concern.

Although the 5-year all-stage survival rate is more than 80% in initial cancer occurrences, a 2021 research review suggests that this rate drops to 55% in people who experience local and regional recurrences and to 17% in those who develop metastasis in other areas of the body.

Can I get uterine cancer after a radical hysterectomy?

Yes. During a radical hysterectomy, a surgeon removes your entire uterus. This means you won’t be able to get uterine cancer again in your uterus, but it is possible for uterine cancer to come back in another organ in another area of your body.

Also, if you still have your ovaries, you are still at risk of developing ovarian cancer and other reproductive cancers.

Can I still have children after uterine cancer treatment?

Your reproductive status will depend on what surgeons remove during your cancer treatment and what damage specific treatments may have caused.

There are fertility-sparing methods of treating uterine cancer, but your healthcare team may or may not recommend these for you, depending on your individual cancer risk.

Are there medications or supplements that could prevent uterine cancer recurrence?

Currently, no medications or supplements are recommended to prevent cancer recurrence, but maintaining a healthy lifestyle may help.

Treatments for uterine cancer are very effective at treating primary cancer. However, some people experience a recurrence of uterine cancer, even after successful treatment.

You can talk with your healthcare team about your individual cancer risk and what treatment may be best for your specific stage of cancer and overall cancer risk.