Endometrial Cancer: Symptoms & Treatment

Overview

Endometrial cancer is a type of uterine cancer which arises from the endometrium (the lining of the uterus or womb). Another type of uterine cancer is uterine sarcoma which is less seen than endometrial cancer.

Endometrial cancer is the result of the abnormal growth of cells and it can spread to other parts of the body. The first sign of endometrial cancer often is abnormal vaginal bleeding (not associated with the period).

Endometrial cancer usually occurs in women after menopause. The average age of women diagnosed with endometrial cancer is 60. It is uncommon in women under the age of 45.

Endometrial cancer is the third most common cause of women death in cancer, just behind ovarian cancer and cervical cancer. In developed country, endometrial cancer is the most common cancer of the female reproductive tract. It is more common in white women, even if black women are more likely to die from it.

Causes & Risk Factors

The exact cause of endometrial cancer is still unknown currently, but there are some risk factors that may be related to endometrial cancer, including:

  • Age
  • Obesity
  • A high-fat diet
  • Lack of exercise
  • Diabetes
  • Family history
  • Breast or ovarian cancer
  • Endometrial hyperplasia
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
  • Previous pelvic radiation therapy
  • Change of hormones in the body caused by taking birth control pills, taking estrogen after menopaus etc.

Symptoms

Some symptoms of endometrial cancer include:

  • Abnormal, watery or blood-tinged discharges from the vagina
  • Feeling a mass
  • Weight loss
  • Vaginal bleeding after menopause
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Pelvic pain

Diagnosis

If you have any signs of endometrial cancer, you should go to see your doctor. Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and will give you a pelvic exam. To confirm a diagnosis, other exams or tests may also be required, such as:

  • Ultrasound, including a pelvic ultrasound, a transvaginal ultrasound (TVUS), a saline infusion sonogram or hysterosonogram
  • Endometrial tissue sampling and testing
  • Blood test: complete blood count (CBC) or CA-125 blood test

If your doctor suspects the cancer has spread, you may need more tests, including:

  • Chest x-ray
  • CT
  • MRI
  • Positron emission tomography (PET)
  • Cystoscopy and proctoscopy

Grades of Endometrial Cancer

The grade of endometrial cancer depends on the degree of similarity between the glands formed by cancer and the glands in normal, healthy endometrium.

In lower-grade cancers (Grades 1 and 2), there is more of the cancerous tissue forms glands.

In higher-grade cancers (Grade 3), there is more of the cancer cells are arranged in a haphazard or disorganized way and don’t form glands.

  • Grade 1: 95% or more of the cancerous tissue forms glands
  • Grade 2: 50% – 94% of the cancerous tissue forms glands
  • Grade 3: less than 50% of the cancerous tissue forming glands

Grade 3 cancers usually are more aggressive and have a poorer outlook than lower-grade cancers. Both Grade 1 and Grade 2 are type 1 endometrial cancers. Type 1 cancers usually are not very aggressive and do not spread quickly.

Type 2 endometrial cancers are much less than type 1. However, type 2 cancers are more likely to grow and spread outside the uterus. Generally, the outlook of type 2 cancer is poorer than type 1. Type 2 cancers include all endometrial cancers except type 1, such as papillary serous carcinoma, clearcell carcinoma, undifferentiated carcinoma, and grade 3 endometrioid carcinoma.

Stages of Endometrial Cancer

Treatment

Your treatment for endometrial cancer usually depends on your health condition, the type and stage of your cancer. There are four choices of treatment: surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and hormone therapy.

Surgery

Surgery usually is the main treatment for most women with endometrial cancer, including:

  • Hysterectomy
  • Bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy
  • Lymph node surgery

Other options may be used to the cancer that has spread:

  • Omentectomy
  • Peritoneal biopsies
  • Tumor debulking

Radiation Therapy

This therapy uses high-energy radiation (such as x-rays) to kill cancer cells.

  • Brachytherapy (also called internal radiation therapy): this put radioactive materials inside patients’ body.
  • External beam radiation therapy.

Chemotherapy

This therapy gives cancer-fighting drugs into a vein or take them orally so that the drugs can enter the blood and run in the whole body. Chemotherapy can treat for cancer that has spread beyond the endometrium. Sometimes chemotherapy can be combined with radiation therapy, which can work much better than only use one treatment.

Drugs can be used in chemotherapy may include:

Hormone Therapy

This therapy can treat for cancer that has spread beyond the uterus. Hormone therapy uses hormones or hormone-blocking drugs to stop cancer cells from growing. Drugs can be used in hormone therapy may include:

Prevention

Some tips can lower your risk of getting endometrial cancer.

  • Eat healthily
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Do exercises regularly

Please consult your doctors for your specific treatment.


Keywords: endometrial cancer; uterine cancer.

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* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.