Endometrial cancer is a type of cancer that begins in cells of the endometrium or lining of the uterus in women. Endometrial cancer is the 6th most common cancer in women worldwide, but is more common in high income countries. Risk increases with age, with most diagnosed after menopause.
Symptoms of endometrial cancer include abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge, pelvic pain, and weight-loss. In general, symptoms occur in early stages of the cancer so it is usually diagnosed early. The overall 5 year survival rate is relatively high and is increasing due to medical research.
Most risk factors for endometrial cancer affect a woman’s estrogen (hormone) level. These include estrogen-only hormone replacement therapy and certain hormone therapies for breast cancer (tamoxifen). Conditions affecting ovulation (polycystic ovarian syndrome, diabetes and obesity) may increase a woman’s risk. Other risk factors include beginning your period before age 12, late menopause, never having been pregnant, and a personal history of breast or ovarian cancer. Lynch syndrome, a genetic condition, also increases a woman’s risk.
Diagnosis may include a pelvic exam, a transvaginal ultrasound (uses sound waves to picture the uterus), an exam using a hysteroscope (thin tube to see inside the uterus), and a uterine biopsy (testing a small piece of tissue). To confirm the diagnosis and stage of cancer, a D&C (special procedure in which cells are scraped from the uterine wall) may be performed.
Treatments may include surgery, hormonal therapy, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. Prevention includes birth control pills containing both progesterone and estrogen, exercise, maintaining a healthy weight and stopping smoking. If you have been diagnosed with endometrial cancer, talk to your doctor about the most current treatment options. Support groups are good sources of information and can connect you living with endometrial cancer.