Early diagnosis can banish it.
Endometrial cancer is rare, accounting for only 4% of cancers diagnosed among women each year. It is also highly treatable if caught early enough. Unfortunately, there are often no symptoms associated with endometrial cancer until it has progressed beyond an early stage.
If you think you might be experiencing symptoms related to endometrial cancer, read this guide to learn more about its causes and treatment options.
An Introduction to Endometrial Cancer
The endometrium, also known as the lining of the uterus, is a thin layer that covers and protects the inside of the uterus. It comprises two layers: the innermost layer and the outermost layer. The basalis produces estrogen during menstruation, while the functional produces progesterone, and this hormone production helps regulate menstrual cycles in women.
Endometrial cancer is a type of tumor that starts in the lining of your uterus, and it can start anywhere along the lining, but it often begins in the inner part. The main symptom of this cancer is abnormal bleeding from the vagina or cervix, and this may be heavy and prolonged menstrual periods or spotting between periods. Other symptoms include pain during intercourse, feeling full quickly after eating, tiredness, weight loss, backache, pelvic pressure, or lower abdominal swelling.
What is a significant early sign of endometrial carcinoma?
Significant early signs of endometrial cancer include:
• An abnormally thickened uterine lining.
• Blood clots in the vagina or rectum.
• Painful periods.
• Bleeding between your periods.
• Heavy bleeding after you’ve had sex.
• A change in bowel habits.
• Unexplained weight gain.
• Changes in appetite.
What are the different stages of endometrial cancer?
The stage of your disease refers to how far cancer has spread. Staging involves looking at several factors, including the size of the tumor, whether lymph nodes are involved, and whether cancer has spread outside of the uterus. These factors help determine what treatments are best for you.
StageI – Tumor less than 2 cm
Stage II – Tumor more than 2 cm but no lymph node involvement
Stage III – Tumor with lymph node involvement
Stage IV – Spread to distant organs such as lungs or liver
Type 1 – Adenocarcinoma. This is the most common form of endometrial cancer. Adenocarcinomas originate in glands, which produce mucus.
How is Endometrial cancer diagnosed?
Your doctor will perform a physical exam and ask questions about your medical history. They will then use a speculum to look at your vaginal opening and check for discharge. If necessary, they may take a sample of cells from your cervix or blood to test for specific markers. In some cases, your doctor may do a biopsy of tissue from your uterus.
Depending on the results of these tests, your doctor may recommend additional testing such as imaging studies or other procedures. Your doctor may want to do further testing depending on how advanced your cancer is.
What are the Treatments associated with Endometrial Cancer?
Treatment depends on several factors, including the stage of cancer when diagnosed, whether cancer has spread, and the general health of the person being treated. Treatment includes surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, and targeted therapies.
The goal of surgery is to remove all of the cancerous tissue while preserving normal tissues. Surgery is usually performed by removing the uterus through the abdomen and removing lymph nodes under the collarbone. In some cases, a hysterectomy may be done without removing the ovaries or fallopian tubes, and removal of the cervix is called a total abdominal hysterectomy.
Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells, and it is used along with radiation therapy and hormonal therapy. Chemotherapy is given either before or during surgery.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy x-rays to destroy cancer cells. The area where the tumor was removed is carefully mapped out so that only the affected areas receive radiation. Radiation therapy is usually given after surgery.
Hormone therapy uses hormones to treat cancer. Hormones are natural substances in our bodies that regulate certain functions like growth, development, reproduction, moods, and metabolism. For example, estrogen regulates menstruation, pregnancy, bone density, and breast size. Progesterone helps prepare the lining of the uterus.
Targeted therapies are medications explicitly designed to target specific molecules involved in cancer. Targeted therapies can be used alone or in combination with traditional treatments. Some examples include:
• Herceptin: Used to treat HER2-positive tumors.
• Avastin: Used to treat advanced colon cancer.
• Tarceva: Used to treat lung cancer.
How quickly does endometrial cancer grow?
On average, it takes about one year for endometrial cancer to spread throughout the body.
Is endometrial cancer slow-growing cancer?
No. Endometrial cancer is not slow-growing cancer. It grows very fast and spreads quickly.
Can you prevent endometrial cancer?
Yes! There are many things you can do to help reduce your risk of developing endometrial cancer. These include:
1) Avoiding obesity. Being overweight increases your chances of developing endometrial cancer by 50%.
2) Eating healthy foods. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. They contain antioxidants that protect against cell damage.
3) Exercise regularly. Regular exercise reduces your risk of heart disease and diabetes and lowers your stress levels.
4) Not smoking. Smoking increases your chance of developing endometrial cancer by 30%.
5) Having regular checkups. Your doctor will screen you for endometrial cancer every year, starting at age 35.
6) Taking birth control pills. Birth control pills decrease your risk of getting endometrial cancer by 60% if taken correctly. Please make sure you take them exactly as prescribed.
7) Getting an annual Pap smear. This test screens for cervical cancer. If you have been sexually active with multiple partners, ask your doctor how often you should get screened.
8)HPV is the virus that causes genital warts and other cancers such as anal cancer. Condoms help reduce your risk of contracting HPV.
9) Reducing alcohol consumption. Alcohol use raises your risk of developing endometrial cancer.
Can endometrial cancer come back after hysterectomy?
Yes. A small percentage of women who have had their uterus removed because of endometrial cancer will develop recurrent disease. Recurrent disease means that cancer comes back somewhere else in the body.
How common is endometrial cancer?
Endometrial cancer occurs more frequently among older women than younger women. According to the American Cancer Society, about 40,000 new cases of endometrial cancer occur each year, and about 12,000 people die from this type of cancer every year.
Thus being careful and vigilant after a certain age will help tackle diseases. Women must be prudent and go for frequent checking with Gynecologists to rectify any problems associated with their bodies.