Uterine Cancer Overview
WellStar Health System provides superior care for uterine - or endometrial - cancer, offering a comprehensive spectrum of top-notch physicians, treatment options and diagnostic tools. In addition WellStar offers such innovative advances in the fight against uterine cancer, including:
- Advanced gynecologic oncologists who specialize in uterine cancer and who practice state-of-the-art care in a collegial atmosphere.
- Expert surgical teams offering experience in complex hysterectomies, including da Vinci Robot surgery.
- The entire spectrum of diagnostic and interventional treatments - including ultrasounds and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
- Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT), a treatment that allows for the radiation to be tailored to the size and placement of the tumor, while sparing healthy tissue.
- A Tumor Board, which meets weekly to present patient cases and craft a personalized treatment plan. The conference is attended by medical oncology, radiation oncology, radiology, pathology, and a team of surgeons specializing in minimally invasive surgery.
- Clinical trials - making novel therapies available to patients.
Uterine cancer is one of the most common cancers in American women - but this type of cancer is often found at its earliest - and treatable - stage. About 43,470 new cases of uterine cancer are diagnosed annually, with almost 8,000 women dying from the disease, according to the American Cancer Society.
Uterine cancer is rare in women under the age of 40 - with most cases found in women 50 and over and the majority of patients are diagnosed between those 50 and 69 years of age.
Typically, uterine cancer starts in the cells of the endometrium, the lining of the uterus. Uterine cancer is often detected at an early stage because it frequently produces vaginal bleeding between menstrual periods or after menopause. If uterine cancer is discovered early, removing the uterus surgically often eliminates all of the cancer.
Symptoms of uterine cancer include:
- Bleeding after menopause
- Prolonged periods or bleeding between periods
- A non-bloody discharge from the vagina.
- Pelvic pain.
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Unexplained weight loss
- Obesity. Being obese can increase the level of estrogen, putting a woman at a higher risk of uterine cancer and other cancers. Obese women have three times the risk of uterine cancer and overweight women have twice the risk, according to the American Cancer Society.
- Never having been pregnant. Pregnancy seems to decrease the risk of endometrial cancer.
- Many years of menstruation. If a woman started menstruating at an early age - before age 12 - or began menopause late, she is at higher risk.
- Irregular ovulation. Ovulation, the monthly release of an egg from an ovary in menstruating women, is regulated by estrogen. Irregular ovulation or failure to ovulate increases a woman’s lifetime exposure to estrogen, tied to uterine cancer.
- A high-fat diet. This type of diet may add to the risk of uterine cancer by promoting obesity. High fat foods may directly affect estrogen metabolism, further increasing a woman's risk of endometrial cancer.
- Diabetes. Uterine cancer is more common in women with diabetes.
- Estrogen-only replacement therapy (ERT). Estrogen stimulates growth of the endometrium. Replacing estrogen alone after menopause may increase the risk of uterine cancer.
- Ovarian tumors. Some tumors of the ovaries may themselves be a source of estrogen, increasing estrogen levels.
- Other factors that can increase your risk of endometrial cancer include:
- Age. The majority of endometrial cancer occurs in women older than 55.
- Personal history of breast cancer or ovarian cancer. If you've had breast or ovarian cancer, you may have an increased risk of endometrial cancer because all of these cancers share some of the same risk factors. However, the vast majority of women who have either breast or ovarian cancer never develop endometrial cancer.
- Tamoxifen treatment. One in every 500 women whose breast cancer was treated with Tamoxifen will develop endometrial cancer. Although Tamoxifen acts mostly as an estrogen blocker, it does have some estrogen-like effects and can cause the uterine lining to grow. If you're being treated with this hormone, see your doctor for an annual pelvic examination and be sure to report any unusual vaginal bleeding.
- Hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC). This inherited disease is caused by an abnormality in a gene important for DNA repair. Women with HNPCC have a significantly higher risk of endometrial cancer as well as colon and other cancers.
- Race. Black women have an increased risk of death from endometrial cancer, although white women are more likely to develop endometrial cancer.