Endometrial Uterine Cancer
Cancer that forms in the tissue lining the uterus (the small, hollow, pear-shaped organ in a woman’s pelvis in which a fetus develops). Most endometrial cancers are adenocarcinomas (cancers that begin in cells that make and release mucus and other fluids).
Endometrial Cancer Symptoms
- Unusual vaginal bleeding, spotting, or other discharge. About 90% of patients diagnosed with endometrial cancer have abnormal vaginal bleeding, such as a change in their periods or bleeding between periods or after menopause. This symptom can also occur with some non-cancerous conditions, but it is important to have a doctor look into any irregular bleeding right away. If you have gone through menopause, it is especially important to report any vaginal bleeding, spotting, or abnormal discharge to your doctor.
- Non-bloody vaginal discharge may also be a sign of endometrial cancer. Even if you cannot see blood in the discharge, it does not mean there is no cancer. In about 10% of cases, the discharge associated with endometrial cancer is not bloody. Any abnormal discharge should be checked out by your doctor.
- Pelvic pain and/or mass and weight loss. Pain in the pelvis, feeling a mass (tumor), and losing weight without trying can also be symptoms of endometrial cancer. These symptoms are more common in later stages of the disease. Still, any delay in seeking medical help may allow the disease to progress even further. This lowers the odds for successful treatment.
Although any of these can be caused by things other than cancer, it is important to have them checked out by a doctor.
Endometrial Cancer – Survival Rate
|Estimated New Cases in 2014||52630|
|% of All New Cancer Cases||3.2%|
|Estimated Deaths in 2014||8590|
|% of All Cancer Deaths||1.5%|
|Percent Surviving 5 Years (2004-2010)||81.5%|
Risk Factors of Endometrial Cancer
Although certain factors increase a woman’s risk for developing endometrial cancer, they do not always cause the disease. Many women with one or more risk factors never develop endometrial cancer. Some women with endometrial cancer do not have any known risk factors
- Hormone factors. A woman’s hormone balance plays a part in the development of most endometrial cancers. A shift in the balance of these hormones toward more estrogen increases a woman’s risk for developing endometrial cancer. After menopause, the ovaries stop making these hormones, but a small amount of estrogen is still made naturally in fat tissue. This estrogen has a bigger impact after menopause than it does before menopause.
- Estrogen therapy. Treating the symptoms of menopause with estrogen is known as estrogen therapy or menopausal hormone therapy. Doctors have found, however, that using estrogen alone (without progesterone) can lead to endometrial cancer in women who still have a uterus. Progesterone-like drugs must be given along with estrogen to reduce the increased risk of endometrial cancer. This approach is called combination hormone therapy.
- Birth control pills. Using birth control pills (oral contraceptives) lowers the risk of endometrial cancer. The risk is lowest in women who take the pill for a long time, and this protection continues for at least ten years after a woman stops taking this form of birth control.
- Total number of menstrual cycles. Having more menstrual cycles during a woman’s lifetime raises her risk of endometrial cancer. Starting menstrual periods (menarche) before age 12 and/or going through menopause later in life raises the risk. Starting periods early is less a risk factor for women with early menopause. Likewise, late menopause may not lead to a higher risk in women whose periods began later in their teens.
- Pregnancy. The hormonal balance shifts toward more progesterone during pregnancy. So having many pregnancies protects against endometrial cancer.
- Obesity. Fat tissue can change some other hormones into estrogens. Having more fat tissue can increase a woman’s estrogen levels, which increases her endometrial cancer risk.
- Tamoxifen is a drug that is used to prevent and treat breast cancer. In women who have gone through menopause, it can cause the uterine lining to grow, which increases the risk of endometrial cancer.
- Ovarian Tumors. A certain type of ovarian tumor, the granulosa-theca cell tumor, often makes estrogen. The resulting hormone imbalance can stimulate the endometrium and even lead to endometrial cancer.
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome. Women with a condition called polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) have abnormal hormone levels, such as higher androgen (male hormones) and estrogen levels and lower levels of progesterone. The increase in estrogen relative to progesterone can increase a woman’s chance of getting endometrial cancer.
- Use of an intrauterine device. Women who used an intrauterine device (IUD) for birth control seem to have a lower risk of getting endometrial cancer.
- The risk of endometrial cancer increases as a woman gets older.
- Diet and exercise. A high-fat diet can increase the risk of several cancers, including endometrial cancer. Physical activity protects against endometrial cancer.
- Diabetes. Endometrial cancer may be as much as 4 times more common in women with diabetes.
- Family history. Endometrial cancer tends to run in some families. This disorder is called hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer (HNPCC). Another name for HNPCC is Lynch syndrome. There are some families that have a high rate of only endometrial cancer. These families may have a different genetic disorder that hasn’t been discovered yet.
- Breast or ovarian cancer. Women who have had breast cancer or ovarian cancer may have an increased risk of developing endometrial cancer. Some of the dietary, hormonal, and reproductive risk factors for breast and ovarian cancer also increase endometrial cancer risk.
- Prior pelvic radiation therapy. Radiation used to treat some other cancers can damage the DNA of cells, sometimes increasing the risk of a second type of cancer such as endometrial cancer.
- Endometrial hyperplasia. Endometrial hyperplasia is an increased growth of the endometrium. Mild or simple hyperplasia, the most common type, has a very small risk of becoming cancerous. It may go away on its own or after treatment with hormone therapy. If the hyperplasia is called “atypical,” it has a higher chance of becoming a cancer.