What is endometrial cancer?
Endometrial cancer forms when cells in the inner lining of the uterus (called the endometrium) grow uncontrollably. According to the American Cancer Society, endometrial cancer is the most common cancer of the female reproductive organs in the United States. It mainly affects postmenopausal women over the age of 60.
What are the different types of endometrial cancer?
There are many kinds of endometrial cancer. Based on how endometrial cancer looks under a microscope, it is classified as one of the following types:
- Squamous cell carcinoma
- Undifferentiated carcinoma
- Small cell carcinoma
- Transitional carcinoma
Adenocarcinoma is the most common form of endometrial cancer. There are many variants, or types of adenocarcinoma, including endometrioid cancer. If your doctor thinks you may have endometrial cancer, he or she will perform a series of tests to determine the type and treatment plan.
What are the symptoms of endometrial cancer?
Endometrial cancer symptoms may include:
- Abnormal bleeding, spotting, or vaginal discharge: Approximately 90% of women with endometrial cancer experience abnormal vaginal bleeding between periods or after menopause. While this symptom can occur in non-cancerous conditions, you should always alert your doctor to abnormal bleeding or non-bloody discharge.
- Pelvic pain: Discomfort or pelvic pain may indicate later stages of endometrial cancer.
- A mass: Always report abnormalities to your doctor, including a mass or noticeable weight loss, as these can also be signs of the disease.
What are the causes and risk factors of endometrial cancer?
Scientists are learning more about changes in DNA that occur when normal endometrial cells become cancerous. However, the cause of most endometrial cancers is still unknown.
Many known risk factors for endometrial cancer relate to the body’s balance of estrogen and progesterone, including taking estrogen after menopause, birth control pills, and tamoxifen. Additional risk factors include:
- Starting menstruation early (before age 12)
- Never having been pregnant
- Using an intrauterine device (IUD)
- Older age (post-menopause)
- Diet and exercise
- Family history of endometrial or colorectal cancer
- Prior diagnosis of breast or ovarian cancer, or endometrial hyperplasia
- Hormone therapy
- Radiation therapy for another cancer
How is endometrial cancer diagnosed and treated?
If you experience symptoms of endometrial cancer, you should see your doctor. Doctors and specialists can diagnose the disease through a series of tests, including:
- Medical history and physical exam
- Pelvic exam
- Endometrial tissue sampling
- Dilation and curettage (D&C)
- Blood tests
Advanced-stage cancer may require additional testing to determine if the cancer has spread to other areas of the body. Tests to look for more cancer may include a chest x-ray, CT scan, MRI, PET scan, and cystoscopy or proctoscopy.
Surgery for endometrial cancer is often paired with hormonal therapy, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. It’s important to discuss all options with your doctors and family to make the best treatment decision for your needs.
Endometrial Cancer Treatment at Baptist Cancer Center
If you are diagnosed with endometrial cancer, your Baptist Cancer Center team will discuss treatment options with you. Baptist doctors and specialists will help you and your family understand the benefits, risks, and side effects of treatment.
In most cases, our superior gynecologic oncologists recommend surgery with a combination of other endometrial cancer treatment options. For many women, the type of surgery is contingent on the type and stage of their diagnosis. No matter your type or stage of endometrial cancer, your Baptist cancer care team is ready to offer you the support, information, and services you need.
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