Endometrial / Uterine Cancer

The lining of the uterus is called endometrium. Abnormal cell growth in the endometrium is called endometrial or uterine cancer. Endometrial cancer is most often seen in woman over 50, and because of its symptoms, it is frequently discovered early, leading to a high rate of treatment success.

Causes of Endometrial Cancer

There is no single cause for endometrial cancer, but there are several risk factors associated with developing this form of cancer:

  • Age – Women over 50 are more at risk
  • Hormone replacement therapy – estrogen replacement therapy without progesterone increases the risk of developing this cancer
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome – causes hormone imbalances that may lead to this type of cancer
  • Obesity – fat cells produce estrogen and may be responsible for more uterine cancer in obese women
  • History of period onset before age 12 or menopause after age 55
  • No history of pregnancy
  • Tamoxifen – a drug used for treat or prevent breast cancer is linked with uterine cancer risk
  • History of endometrial hyperplasia

 Symptoms of Endometrial Cancer

The most frequently experienced symptom of endometrial cancer is post menopausal vaginal bleeding. In most cases, this abnormal bleeding is not linked to cancer, but in about 20% of cases, it indicates endometrial cancer.

Advanced endometrial cancer may show additional symptoms such as:

  • Weight loss
  • Lump in the pelvis
  • Pain in the pelvic area
  • Painful urination

Diagnosing Endometrial Cancer

The first step in diagnosing endometrial cancer is to take a biopsy of the lining of the uterus and examining it for cancer cells.

Other tests that may be performed are:

  • Transvaginal pelvic ultrasound to show the thickness of the endometrium and to determine if the uterine muscle is involved
  • Hysteroscopy to view inside the uterus and retrieve tissue samples
  • Dilation and curettage (D and C) to obtain tissue samples from within the uterus 

Treating Endometrial Cancer

When found early, endometrial cancer responds well to treatment and is frequently cured. Treatment options depend on the location of the cancer cells, how large the affected area is, and whether the cancer has spread into other areas. Treatment options include:

  • Removal of the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, and surrounding lymph nodes
  • Removal of just the lymph nodes
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy