Endometrial cancer is a type of cancer that grows from the endometrial lining in the uterus. It is also commonly known as uterine cancer. Unlike many other cancers, endometrial cancer symptoms start to show from early stages, which is why this disease is generally diagnosed quickly. With over 1 million women diagnosed in India each year with this type of cancer, endometrial cancer is quite common. This is why women must be aware of the various signs of endometrial cancer, so that they can seek an early diagnosis.
Endometrial Cancer Symptoms:
Endometrial cancer symptoms present as changes in menstruation. Some of them are as follows:
- Vaginal bleeding even after menopause
- Pelvic pain
- Watery or bloody discharge from the vagina
- Bleeding between periods
Women should visit a gynecologist if they experience any of the above symptoms. They should also do so if they begin experiencing pain during intercourse.
Who is at Risk for Developing Endometrial Cancer?
Certain biological factors can increase the risk of women developing endometrial cancer. These include:
- Hormonal changes: Any fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone can lead to changes in the uterine lining. When women suffer from any condition that can lead to the increase in estrogen without increasing progesterone can put women at risk for developing endometrial cancer. Furthermore, if the patient is taking any hormones that can increase the amount of estrogen production in the body, then this can also increase the risk of endometrial cancer.
- Early menstruation: Women who being menstruating before the age of 12 have higher changes of developing this cancer. This is because more menstrual periods mean higher exposure of estrogen to the uterine lining.
- Ageing increases the risk of this cancer.
- Hormone therapy received for breast cancer.
- Obesity can alter the overall balance of hormones in the body, which can increase the chances of endometrial cancer.
- Never being pregnant can also increase the risk of developing this disease.
How is Endometrial Cancer Diagnosed?
Doctors rely on various tests to diagnose endometrial cancer. Some of these include:
- Pelvic Examination: A Pelvic examination is one of the ways a doctor can diagnose ‘ Advanced Endometrial Cancer
- Imaging Tests: Tests such as Ultrasound, MRI and CT-Scan can be extremely useful tools, which helps a doctor in diagnosing Endometrial Cancer.
- Hysteroscope: Doctors use a Hysteroscope with camera at one end to examine endometrial tissue.
- Biopsy: Biopsy is one of the most definitive ways of testing the cancer.
Endometrial Cancer Staging:
Often, the first thing that a patient wants to know right after receiving the diagnosis is the endometrial cancer staging. The following are the 4 stages of endometrial cancer and what they mean:
- Stage 1: this means that the cancer is only within the uterus.
- Stage 2: this means that the cancer can be found in the uterus and cervix.
- Stage 3: this means that the cancer has begun to spread outside of the uterus, but has not yet reached the rectum or bladder. It may have spread to the pelvic lymph nodes too.
- Stage 4: this means that the cancer has spread past the pelvic area and can affect the rectum and bladder, as well as other far reaching organs.
Endometrial Cancer Treatments:
With cancer, treatment plans often depend on the patient’s individual chart and medical history. However, most doctors use a combination of the following endometrial cancer treatments in varying degrees:
Doctors may recommend a hysterectomy. In this, surgeons remove the uterus from the patient’s body, taking the cancer cells out of the body. Sometimes, doctors may also remove the fallopian tubes and ovaries if it seems pertinent to the case. During this procedure, surgeons generally have a look around the neighboring organs to see if the cancer has spread.
Radiation therapy is a treatment that is used to kill cancer cells. Sometimes, radiation therapy is prescribed before surgery so that the tumour size can shrink. This can make it easier for doctors to remove it. Similarly, this endometrial cancer treatment is also prescribed after surgery to lower the risk of recurrence.
Hormone therapy is prescribed when the cancer is advanced. Its main aim to balance out the hormones in the patient’s body. Doctors may prescribe medications that increase progesterone production in the body. This can stop the endometrial cells from growing. Doctors may also prescribe medications that reduce estrogen levels in the body. The endometrial cancer cells that rely on estrogen for sustenance start dying when this happens.
Chemotherapy is a treatment that is recommended for patients who see recurring cases of endometrial cancer. Doctors may prescribe a single or mixed dose of chemotherapy to the patient orally or through the veins.
When the disease is extremely advanced, doctors recommend palliative care. This means that the main aim of the treatment is not to eradicate the disease, but to provide the patient with relief from pain.
Endometrial cancer symptoms present themselves in an extremely noticeable way (that is, through changes in your menstrual flow). Thus, if you notice anything abnormal, you should visit your doctor immediately to get the diagnosis and treatment to begin soon.
Infographic: Endometrial Cancer