What Is Endometrial Cancer? Its Symptoms, Causes & Treatment
Have unusual vaginal bleeding?
It’s important to get medically checked as it might be a symptom of endometrial cancer. Let’s look into what is endometrial cancer, its symptoms, causes and treatment.
What Is Endometrial Cancer?
Endometrial cancer is the most common cancer affecting the reproductive organs of women. In this cancer, the lining of the uterus called the endometrium, which builds up and sheds during menstruation of non-pregnant women, starts to grow abnormally. This cancer is highly curable if found early and often detected early due to abnormal vaginal bleeding. Endometrial cancer is mostly seen in post-menopausal women aged 55 or older.
What Are Endometrial Cancer Symptoms?
Around 90 percent of the women having endometrial cancer experience unusual vaginal bleeding, which is the most common reason to visit a doctor.
- Bleeding between periods or heavier flow
- Vaginal bleeding after menopause
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Abnormal vaginal discharge
- Painful or difficult urination
- Pain or mass in the pelvic region
- Weight loss
What Are Endometrial Cancer Causes?
Researchers still do not know what endometrial cancer causes are, but some risk factors are strongly linked to this cancer.
There are 2 types of female hormones estrogen and progesterone. Changes in the balance of these hormones play a role in developing endometrial cancer, and many risk factors associated with this disorder increase estrogen levels.
Obesity is one of the strong risk factors for endometrial cancer. More fat can elevate women’s estrogen levels and increase the cancer risk. Obese women are thrice likely to develop this disease than women with a healthy weight.
More menstrual cycles mean more exposure of the endometrium to estrogen. Either starting menstrual periods before the age of twelve or having late menopause can increase the risk of developing endometrial cancer.
Being treated with tamoxifen for prevention or treatment of breast cancer. This drug can cause the uterus lining to grow in post-menopausal women and increase the risk of endometrial cancer.
Lynch syndrome: Some genetic changes can be passed on in families. Hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer syndrome (HNPCC), also known as Lynch syndrome, is an inherited disorder that can raise the risk of colon cancer and endometrial cancer. Women with this syndrome have about 70% risk of developing this cancer.
The other risk factors are:
- Never having children or inability to become pregnant
- Older age
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
- Use of hormone replacement therapy with estrogen
- Personal history of ovarian or breast cancer
- Prior radiation therapy for pelvic cancer
What Are Endometrial Cancer Treatment Options?
The best treatment for this cancer is determined based on the patient’s general health, the extent of the disease (whether it is only on the uterus lining or has spread to other body parts), and symptoms.
Endometrial cancer treatment includes one or more of the following:
- Surgery: Most people are usually treated with surgery for endometrial cancer. The operation generally involves the removal of the uterus (hysterectomy). It makes it impossible to get pregnant in the future. If cancer has spread to other parts such as fallopian tubes, ovaries, vagina, or lymph nodes, your surgeon may recommend removing other organs as well.
- Radiation: This endometrial cancer treatment involves the use of high-energy radiation to fight cancer and may be recommended after surgery or as a main endometrial cancer treatment. External beam radiation and brachytherapy are the most common radiation therapies preferred in this cancer treatment.
- Chemotherapy: This therapy involves the use of medications to treat cancerous cells. The medicines may be given orally or intravenously. Single or combination of medicines will be given based on the cancer's nature. You might receive chemotherapy medicines before surgery to reduce the cancer size or after surgery if there is an increased risk of cancer recurrence.
- Hormone therapy: This endometrial cancer treatment involves the use of hormones or hormone-blocking medications to treat cancer. The cancer cells that depend on hormones to grow might die. It is often used in the advanced stage of endometrial cancer or in cancer recurrence.
- Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy involves using drugs that activate a patient’s immune system to fight against cancer. The immune system is a disease-fighting system in our body that usually protects us from diseases. Though, cancer cells have proteins on the surface that turn off immune cells. Immunotherapy medications interfere with this process and treat cancer.
The Final Word
Often this cancer is diagnosed at an early stage and cured by surgical removal of the uterus. Being physically active, minimizing animal fat consumption, maintaining a healthy weight, and controlling your health conditions, such as diabetes, helps lower the risk of getting endometrial cancer.