by Kimberly Allen R.N.
Endometrial cancer also known uterine cancer represents several types of cancers that originate in the usterus. Of all the gynecological cancers endometrial cancers are the most comon in developed countries. In the US endometrial cancer is the fourth most commonly diagnosed cancer in women with over 35,000 women being diagnosed every year.
Endometrial cancers are divided into two classifications, carcinomas and sarcomas. Carcinomas are cancers that begin in the layer of cells that line the uterus and the endometrial glands known as epithelial cells. There are many subtypes, but the most common is ‘endometrial carcinoma’. Many experts are now suggesting that the endometrial carcinomas be further classified into two pathogenic groups. Type I would include those cancers that develop in pre- and peri- menopausal women with a high exposur to estrogen or endometrial hyperplasia. These cancers are minimally invasive and usually have a good prognosis. Type II are cancers that develop in postmenopausal women and those that are more commonly diagnosed in African American women and those not related to high estrogen exposure. these cancers tend to be more aggressive with a much poorer prognosis. Sarcomas are cancers that develop in the connective tissue of the lining of the uterus instead of the epithelial and glandular tissue.
Endometrial cancers develop when a genetic mutation occurs with in the cells of the lining of the uterus. Though Drs do not know what causes the mutation they do know that it causes normal cell to become abnormal cells that continue to grow and multiply continuously unlike healthy cells that multiply at a specific rate for a specific amount of time then die the abnormal cells don’t die as they’re supposed to.
Drs have identified several factors that can increase your risk of developing some form of endometrial cancer. One of the most widely known factors involves changes in the balance between estrogen and progesterone. Any condition that cause an increase in estrogen but not progesterone can increase your risk of endometrial cancer. While hormone imbalance may be the most well known cause of endometrial cancer the most common risk factor is obesity. Women that are 50lbs or more over their ideal body weight are 10 times more likely to develop some form of endometrial cancer. Women that have never been pregnant are also 2-3 times more likely to develop an endometrial cancer. Early puberty and late menopause also increase your risk for developing endometrial cancer. Also, a family history of not only endometrial cancers but also if Lynch syndrome runs in your family
your risk is increased.
Drs have also discovered that use of or a history of use of oral contraceptives ‘decreases’ your risk. This protection develops in
women that have used oral contraceptives for at least 12 months and lasts for 10 years after discontinuing them. Women that have never been pregnant seem to receive the most benefit.
The most common symptom of endometrial cancer is abnormal vaginal bleeding. Any and all vaginal bleeding that is not normal for you should be reported to your Dr immediately. Other symptoms that include pelvic pain usually occur once the cancer has advanced.
The most common and most effective treatment for endometrial cancer is surgery, usually a total hysterectomy. This includes removal of the entire uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes and the ovaries. During the surgery the Dr will take samples of thesurrounding tissues to determine how the cancer has spread. After the Dr has determined how far the cancer has spread he/she will discuss whether or not further treatment is needed with you.
There isn’t anything that you can do to change the genetic risk factors that put you at risk however discussing options like taking
birth control pills can be a good starting point. Other factors that you can control are maintaining your weight and exercising regularly can significantly improve your chances of not developing endometrial cancer.