Endometrial cancer is cancer that starts in the endometrium, the lining of the uterus (womb).
Endometrial cancer is the most common type of uterine cancer. Although the exact cause of endometrial cancer is unknown, increased levels of estrogen appear to play a role. Estrogen helps stimulate the buildup of the lining of the uterus. Studies have shown that high levels of estrogen in animals result in excessive endometrial growth and cancer.
Most cases of endometrial cancer occur between the ages of 60 and 70 years, but a few cases may occur before age 40.
The following increase your risk of endometrial cancer:
Associated conditions include the following:
A pelvic examination is frequently normal, especially in the early stages of disease. Changes in the size, shape, or feel of the uterus or surrounding structures may be seen when the disease is more advanced.
Tests that may be done include:
If cancer is found, other tests may be done to determine how widespread the cancer is and whether it has spread to other parts of the body. This is called staging.
Stages of endometrial cancer:
Cancer is also described as Grade 1, 2, or 3. Grade 1 is the least aggressive, and grade 3 is the most aggressive.
Treatment options involve surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.
A hysterectomy may be performed in women with the early stage 1 disease. Removal of the tubes and ovaries (bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy) is also usually recommended.
Abdominal hysterectomy is recommended over vaginal hysterectomy. This type of hysterectomy allows the surgeon to look inside the abdominal area and remove tissue for a biopsy.
Surgery combined with radiation therapy is often used to treat women with stage 1 disease that has a high chance of returning, has spread to the lymph nodes, or is a grade 2 or 3. It is also used to treat women with stage 2 disease.
Chemotherapy may be considered in some cases, especially for those with stage 3 and 4 disease.
The stress of illness may be eased by joining a support group whose members share common experiences and problems. See cancer - support group.
Endometrial cancer is usually diagnosed at an early stage. The 1-year survival rate is about 92%.
The 5-year survival rate for endometrial cancer that has not spread is 95%. If the cancer has spread to distant organs, the 5-year survival rate drops to 23%.
Complications may include anemia due to blood loss. A perforation (hole) of the uterus may occur during a D and C or endometrial biopsy.
There can also be complications from hysterectomy, radiation, and chemotherapy.
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you have abnormal vaginal bleeding or any other symptoms of endometrial cancer. This is particularly important if you have any associated risk factors or if you have not had routine pelvic exams.
Any of the following symptoms should be reported immediately to the doctor:
All women should have regular pelvic exams beginning at the onset of sexual activity (or at the age of 21 if not sexually active) to help detect signs of infection of abnormal development. Women should have Pap smears beginning 3 years after becoming sexually active.
Women with any risk factors for endometrial cancer should be followed more closely by their doctors. Frequent pelvic examinations and screening tests such as a Pap smear and endometrial biopsy should be considered.
Women who are taking estrogen replacement therapy should have regular pelvic examinations and Pap smears.
Endometrial adenocarcinoma; Uterine adenocarcinoma; Uterine cancer; Adenocarcinoma -endometrium; Adenocarcinoma - uterus; Cancer - uterine; Cancer - endometrial; Uterine corpus cancer