(As most uterine cancers develop from the endometrium, the term “endometrial cancer” may sometimes be used interchangeably with uterine cancer although there are differences)
Although abnormal vaginal bleeding may not always be indicative of cancer, those at a higher risk of developing uterine cancer should consider going for annual screenings. If detected at an early stage, the five-year survival rate for uterine cancer is as high as 95%.
Risk Factors of Uterine Cancer
Women who have never been pregnant
Women who had their first periods by age 12; and women who have undergone menopause after age 55
Irregular or infrequent menstrual periods of less than 4 times a year
Women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
Family history of uterine cancer
Personal history of breast or ovarian cancer
Hormone Replacement Therapy that involves only Oestrogen
The most common symptom of uterine cancer is unusual vaginal bleeding. While vaginal bleeding is not always a sign of cancer, it is recommended that a doctor be consulted as this could indicate other problems as well.
Unusual vaginal bleeding includes:
Bleeding after menopause
Bleeding between menstrual periods
Abnormally heavy periods
Other signs of uterine cancer are:
Pink or white water vaginal discharge
Vaginal discharge that has a foul odour
Pain during or after sexual intercourse
Screening and Diagnosis
Women who are at higher risk of developing uterine cancer should consider going for annual screenings of uterine cancer with transvaginal ultrasound and endometrial biopsy by the age of 30-35.
Primary evaluation in the doctor’s office may involve a pelvic examination to detect lumps or unusual findings, as well as an ultrasound scan to identify abnormalities in the uterus.
A thin tube is inserted through the cervix into the uterus to obtain a small amount of uterine tissue. This biopsy is necessary to confirm the diagnosis of uterine cancer.
Dilatation and Curettage (D&C) may also be performed to remove the uterine tissue for testing, to determine the progress of uterine cancer prior to treatment
Treatment for Uterine Cancer
This is the most common form of treatment for uterine cancer that removes the uterus and cervix. If the cancer has spread, the ovaries, fallopian tubes and lymph nodes may be removed too.
This can be used in all stages of uterine cancer, where high-energy rays target the cancer calls. It may also be introduced before surgery, or after to remove remaining cancer cells.
Aimed at slowing the growth and development of some types of uterine cancer, this is usually given by an oral pill containing a sex hormone called progesterone, which helps to balance out the hormone levels in the body.
This article is part of our Gynaecological Cancers series. To know more about other Gynaecological Cancers, continue reading about Ovarian Cancer and Cervical Cancer.
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