Uterine (uterus) or endometrial cancer starts in the lining of the womb or the endometrium and is the most common type of cancer affecting the region. The exact cause connected with the building up of cancerous cells in the endometrium is not known, but it has been proved that increased levels of estrogen plays a vital role in stimulating uterine cancer. Most known cases of endometrial cancer are found in women in the age group of 60-70 years but there are certain examples of women below 40 years suffering from the same too.
It has been researched that certain risk factors lead to the development of uterine cancer and increases the chances of women being diagnosed for the disease.
Some of the Common Risk Factors Are
Abnormal Endometrial Overgrowth
One of the primary risk factors connected with endometrial cancer is an abnormal growth in the number of cancerous cells lining the walls of the uterus. This condition known as endometrial hyperplasia, leads to the development of uterine cancer. Some of the common symptoms connected with hyperplasia are bleeding between periods, heavy menstrual periods and bleeding in the menopausal years.
Hysterectomy or surgical removal of the uterus is often recommended along with hormone therapy, to prevent the condition from escalating into cancer.
Obesity is one of the other risk factors which enhance the chance of uterine cancer developing in middle aged women.
Menstrual and Reproductive History
Women who have never had children or have had their menstrual cycle onset before 12 years of age stand a risk of being diagnosed for endometrial cancer along with those who go through their menopause after the age of 55.
History of Hormone Therapy
Women with a history of hormonal therapy with estrogen alone (without including progesterone), for menopausal relief or those who have taken tamoxifen for the treatment or prevention of breast cancer are at a higher risk of being diagnosed for uterine cancer.
Women with a history of radiation therapy in the pelvic region also run a higher risk of endometrial cancer.
Women, who have a history of other female members suffering from uterine cancer are supposed to be at an increase risk of being diagnosed for uterine cancer along with those who have inherited Lynch Syndrome or Colorectal Cancer.
However, it is important to note that these risk factors are not generic and vary from one patient to another.
The Common Symptoms of Uterine Cancer
Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding
One of the most common symptoms of Endometrial or uterine cancer is abnormal bleeding from the vagina. The discharge may begin as watery and blood streaked flow which builds up into a heavier discharge. It has to be remembered that any bleeding or vaginal discharge after menopause is considered to be abnormal.
Women diagnosed for uterine cancer often complain of pain in the pelvic region, while emptying their bladder and during sexual intercourse.
These signs and symptoms can be caused by other health problems apart from uterine cancer and the same should be discussed with the doctor for early diagnosis and treatment.
Diagnosis of Uterine Cancer
Some of the tests and examinations conducted for the diagnosis of uterine cancer are as follows:
Along with blood tests and physical examinations, doctors may recommend pelvic exams wherein they check a patient’s vagina, uterus and other nearby tissues for any changes in size or shape or lumpy formations.
Ultrasound tests use sound waves to create a pattern of echoes when they bounce off the organs located in the pelvis. These echoes lead to the creation of pictures depicting the nearby tissues and uterine region. The test reports often reveal uterine tumor. Sometimes, transvaginal ultrasound is also recommended, in which the device is inserted into the vagina for better view and diagnosis.
Biopsy is referred to the process of removal of tissues from the pelvic area to test for the development of cancer. Biopsy requires the insertion of a thin tube into the uterus through the vagina and a gentle scraping is done to procure and remove small samples of the tissue within. The tissue is then examined under a microscope for cancer by a professional pathologist. Biopsy is one of the surest ways of confirming uterine cancer.
Uterine or Endometrial cancer is one of the most painful and common types of cancer effecting women on a global scale. It is important to keep a watch out for its signs and symptoms and have prior knowledge about the risk factors which can lead to its diagnosis in the later stages of life.