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Device may help cancer treatment

A contraception device could offer female cancer patients who want to preserve their fertility an alternative to a hysterectomy, according to new research.

Treatment for endometrial cancer, which affects the lining of the womb, usually involves a hysterectomy to remove the womb and ovaries, leaving patients unable to have children.

Patients can sometimes take hormone therapy in tablet form to slow down cancer growth but they can experience side-effects such as rashes and nausea.

Researchers in Italy claim an alternative method could now be possible after conducting a trial using an intrauterine device (IUD).

The team sought to discover if the cancer could be halted and reversed with an IUD, which released hormones for six months to stop the endometrial layer of the womb growing, combined with injections of another hormone to stop the production of oestrogen, which promotes development of the cancer.

The team analysed results from 34 women aged between 22 and 40 treated at the European Institute of Oncology in Milan between 1996 and 2009.

Of the 20 patients with AEH, 19 of them responded successfully to the treatment initially, although four relapsed and had to be treated again later, the scientists found.

Eight of the 14 early-stage cancer patients showed no signs of disease after the treatment, two responded successfully initially but relapsed later, while the disease progressed in four.

Nine babies have been born among the women taking part in the trial and all the women are alive without evidence of disease, according to the study, published in Annals of Oncology.

Copyright © Press Association 2010

European Institute of Oncology