Cancer of the uterus is also called endometrial cancer. Cancer of the uterus begins in the endometrium, the lining of the uterus. It’s the most common pelvic cancer in women, usually occurring after menopause between the ages of 50 and 70.
The precise cause of uterine cancer is still unknown. However, excess estrogen replacement after menopause may play a role in its development.
Since cancer of the uterus is generally slow growing and localized, it can have a high rate of cure if diagnosed early. More than 80 percent of patients remain cancer-free for five or more years if treated promptly.
KNOW THE RISK FACTORS
- beginning menopause late (after age 52)
- having a history of infertility
- having a history of irregular periods
- never giving birth
- being obese
- receiving estrogen replacement therapy for over two years without taking supplementary progesterone
RECOGNIZE THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
- vaginal bleeding after menopause
- heavy periods or bleeding between periods before menopause
- a pink, watery discharge from the vagina
(Note: There are often no signs or symptoms present in the early stages of this cancer.)
HOW IS UTERINE CANCER DETECTED AND DIAGNOSED?
Early detection is difficult. Pap smears detect as few as 50 percent of cases and it’s not noticeable during a pelvic exam. The first clue is vaginal bleeding. An endometrial biopsy can be performed. This is an office procedure where the doctor removes a small piece of tissue from the uterine lining for analysis. For a more accurate diagnosis, a dilation and curettage can be performed. This procedure usually requires some form of anesthesia and is done in a hospital or outpatient clinic. The cervix is dilated and tissue is scraped from the uterine lining.
TREATMENT METHODS FOR UTERINE CANCER
Most doctors will recommend a hysterectomy. This is a removal of the uterus. The fallopian tubes and ovaries will most likely be removed also as the cancer tends to spread to these organs. Radiation therapy may also be given after surgery. If the cancer has spread to other parts of your body, chemotherapy may be administered to stop the cancer from growing.