About Endometrial cancer

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What is Endometrial cancer?

Endometrial cancer develops in the inner lining of the uterus, which is also known as the endometrium. Endometrial cancer is also known as uterine cancer or uterus cancer. The uterus is a hollow, pear-shaped pelvic organ in women where fetal development takes place. Endometrial cancer is highly curable when found early.

The different types of endometrial cancer are as follows:

  • Type 1 tends to be relatively slow-growing and does not spread quickly to other tissues.
  • Type 2 tends to be more aggressive and is prone to spread outside the uterus.

Type 1 endometrial cancers are more common than type 2. They are also easier to treat.

What are the causes and risk factors of Endometrial cancer?

The ovaries produce two main female hormones known as estrogen and progesterone. The changes in the balance of these hormones can cause endometrium cancer. The factors below may increase a woman’s risk of developing endometrial cancer:

  • More years of menstruation – When menstruation starts at an early age (before 12 years of age) or getting menopause later, increases the risk of endometrial cancer.
  • Infertility / unable to become pregnant – If you are unable to become pregnant, you will be at a higher risk of endometrial cancer.
  • Hormone therapy for breast cancer – Taking hormone therapy drugs for breast cancer increases the risk of developing endometrial cancer.
  • Obesity increases the risk of endometrial cancer.
  • Diabetes
  • A family history of breast cancer
  • A family history of endometrial cancer or ovarian cancer or colon cancer.
  • Prior radiation therapy for pelvic cancer
  • History of polycystic ovary syndrome 
  • Having sex during mensuration increases the risk of endometrial cancer.

What are the symptoms of Endometrial cancer?

The symptoms may include the following:

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • Changes in the flow or length of menstrual periods
  • Spotting during menstrual periods
  • Vaginal bleeding even after menopause
  • Blood-tinged vaginal discharge
  • Pain in the lower abdomen or pelvis
  • Pain during sex

How is endometrial cancer diagnosed?

The tests and procedures used to diagnose endometrial cancer include the following:

  • Physical examination: An examination of the body is done to check general signs of health, lumps or any abnormality.
  • Transvaginal ultrasound examination: This procedure is used to examine the vagina, uterus, fallopian tubes, and bladder. To perform a transvaginal ultrasound, your physician will insert an ultrasound probe into your vagina and this probe will transmit images onto a monitor. If your physician detects abnormalities during the ultrasound examination, then they may request for further tests to be taken.
  • Endometrial biopsy: In this test, your physician will insert a thin flexible tube into your uterus through your cervix. They will also use suction to remove a piece of tissue from your endometrium through the tube.
  • Hysteroscopy: In this procedure, your physician inserts a thin flexible tube with a fiber-optic camera through your cervix into your uterus. This endoscope is used to visually examine your endometrium and biopsy samples for abnormalities.
  • Dilation and curettage (D&C): If the results of a biopsy are not clear, then your physician will collect another sample of endometrial tissue using D&C. To do this procedure, they will dilate your cervix and scrape the tissue from your endometrium with a special tool.

After collecting a sample of tissue from your endometrium, your physician will send it to a laboratory for testing whether cancer cells are present or not. If you have endometrial cancer, your physician will request additional tests to find out if cancer has spread to other organs or not.

What are the stages of endometrial cancer?

Endometrial cancer gradually spreads from the uterus to the other parts of the body. The cancer is classified into four stages, based on the extent of the growth of cancer cells:

  1. Stage 1: The cancer cells are present only in the uterus.
  2. Stage 2: The cancer is present in both, the uterus and cervix.
  3. Stage 3: The cancer has spread beyond the uterus, but not as far as the rectum or bladder. It could be present in the fallopian tubes, ovaries, vagina, or the nearby lymph nodes.
  4. Stage 4: Cancer has spread beyond the pelvic area like the bladder, rectum, or distant tissues and organs.

Endometrial cancer will be easier to treat in the early stages.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is the success rate of uterine cancer?

The survival rate for women with uterine cancer is 81%. 

How long before endometrial hyperplasia turns into cancer?

It takes ten to twelve years from the time it begins to grow to develop into endometrial cancer.

What is the aggressive form of uterine cancer?

The most common type of uterine cancer is adenocarcinoma and other variants of uterine cancer include serous carcinoma and uterine clear cell carcinoma. 

Does uterine cancer bleed all the time?

Around 90% of women with endometrial cancer have experienced abnormal vaginal bleeding. This could be a change in their periods, bleeding between periods, or bleeding after menopause. 

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