Endometrial cancer is the development of abnormal cells in the lining of the uterus, which is called endometrium. Endometrial cancer is sometimes called uterine cancer. Other types of cancer can form in the uterus, including uterine sarcoma, but they are much less common than endometrial cancer.
Endometrial cancer is commonly seen in women older than 50. But it can be cured when found early. In most cases, the cancer is found in its earliest stage, before it has spread outside the uterus.
The most common cause of endometrial cancer is the presence of excess estrogen hormone as compared to progesterone in the body. This hormonal imbalance leads to persistent thickening of the uterus. If the lining develops and stays that way, then cancer cells can start to grow.
Signs and symptoms associated with endometrial cancer
Menopause is the most common sign of endometrial cancer
. Some other symptoms include:
Tests and diagnosis for endometrial cancer
Tests and processes used to diagnose endometrial cancer include:
- Pelvic examination: In this process, your doctor inspects your genitals and then inserts two fingers into your vagina and simultaneously presses abdomen to feel your uterus and ovaries. He/She may use speculum (a device) to check your vagina and cervix for abnormalities.
- Sound waves to create a picture of your uterus: Your doctor may propose a trans-vaginal ultrasound to examine the thickness and texture of the endometrium and help rule out other conditions.
- Using a scope to examine endometrium: In this process, your doctor inserts a hysteroscope (a thin, flexible, lighted tube) through your vagina and cervix into your uterus to examine the inside of your uterus and the endometrium.
- Removing a sample of tissue for testing: An endometrial biopsy will be performed by your doctor to get a sample of cells from inside your uterus. This involves removing tissue from your uterine lining for laboratory analysis.
Treatment options for endometrial cancer
Your options for treating your endometrial cancer depend on various factors such as the cancer stage, your general health and your preferences.
- Surgery: Surgery to remove the uterus is recommended for most women with endometrial cancer. Most women with endometrial cancer undergo a procedure to remove the uterus (hysterectomy), as well as to remove the fallopian tubes and ovaries.
- Radiation therapy: The therapy uses powerful energy beams, such as X-rays, to destroy cancer cells. In some cases, your doctor may suggest radiation to diminish your risk of a cancer recurrence after surgery. In certain situations, radiation therapy may also be recommended before surgery, to shrink a tumor and make it easier to remove.
- Hormone therapy: It involves taking medications that affect hormone levels in the body. The option is best suited for women who have advanced endometrial cancer that has spread beyond the uterus.
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer medications to destroy cancer cells. You may receive one chemotherapy drug, or two or more drugs can be used in combination. You may receive chemotherapy drugs orally or intravenously (through your veins).