(Also Called ‘Endometrial Adenocarcinoma’)
What is endometrial cancer?
Endometrial cancer, or cancer of the endometrium, is a cancer that develops in the inner lining of the uterus (womb). This lining is called the endometrium. Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of cells that invade and cause damage to surrounding tissue.
What are the risk factors for endometrial cancer?
Some risk factors include:
- Obesity(being very overweight) .
- History of not being able to become pregnant or having never given birth – Women who have not been pregnant have a higher risk due to increased exposure to estrogen.
- Use of tamoxifen – This drug, which is used to treat women with breast cancer, acts like estrogen in the uterus and can increase the risk of endometrial cancer.
- Estrogen replacement therapy (ERT)- This therapy, involving the use of female hormone estrogen to offset the effects of menopause, can increase endometrial cancer risk if progesterone is not used to protect against precancerous changes in the endometrium.
- Ovarian diseases – Women who have certain ovarian tumors have higher than normal estrogen levels and lower levels of progestins. The increase in estrogen compared to progestins can increase a woman’s chance of getting endometrial cancer.
- A diet high in animal fat – A high-fat diet can increase the risk of several cancers, including endometrial cancer.
- Diabetes – Diabetes has been linked to weight, but some studies suggest that diabetes by itself could be a risk factor for endometrial cancer.
- Age – As females get older, the likelihood of endometrial cancer increases. Most endometrial cancers occur in women age 50 or older.
- Early menstruation – If monthly periods begin before age 12, the risk for this cancer might increase as the uterus might be exposed to estrogen for more years.
- Late menopause – If menopause occurs after age 50, the risk for this cancer might increase as the uterus might be exposed to estrogen for more years.
- Family history – Endometrial cancer risk is increased some families who are also at risk to develop a certain type of colon cancer.
- Earlier pelvic radiation therapy – Radiation used to treat some other cancers can damage the DNA of cells, increasing the risk of a second type of cancer.
What are the symptoms of endometrial cancer?
The following symptoms might occur with endometrial cancer or other conditions:
- Vaginal bleeding between normal periods in pre-menopausal women
- Vaginal bleeding or spotting in post-menopausal women, even a small amount
- Lower abdominal pain or pelvic cramping
- Thin white or clear discharge in post-menopausal women
- Extremely long, heavy or frequent vaginal bleeding episodes in women over 40
How is endometrial cancer diagnosed?
- Endometrial biopsy.
- Transvaginal ultrasound or sonography.
- Dilation and curettage.
- Testing of endometrial tissue – Endometrial tissue samples removed by biopsy or D & C are examined under the microscope to determine whether cancer is present.
- CT or CAT scan (also called computed tomography, computerized tomography, or computerized axial tomography) .
- MRI (also called magnetic resonance imaging).
- CA-125 assay .
How is endometrial cancer treated?
Surgery is the main treatment for most women with endometrial cancer, although radiation therapy, hormone therapy, and chemotherapy are other tools that may be used depending upon the stage and the specific type of endometrial cancer cell found. In certain situations, a combination of treatments might be used. The choice of treatment or treatments will depend on the type and stage of the cancer and the overall medical condition of the patient.
Can endometrial cancer be prevented?
Most cases of endometrial cancer cannot be prevented, but women can take some measures to reduce their risk of developing endometrial cancer. Risks might be reduced with:
- Using oral contraceptives
- Controlling obesity
- Controlling diabetes
In addition, women who are considering estrogen replacement therapy should talk to their doctors to assess their risk of endometrial cancer.