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Endometrial Cancer

Definition


Disease: Endometrial Cancer Endometrial Cancer
Category: Tumors

Disease Definition:

Usually, endometrial cancer is found at its earliest and most treatable stage. Endometrial cancer begins in the cells of the endometrium, which is the lining of the uterus. The uterus is a hollow pelvic organ shaped like a pear, where fetal development occurs. Although this type of cancer is also called uterine cancer, however, there are other cells in the uterus that can become cancerous, including muscle or myometrial cells. These form less common cancers called sarcomas.

 

Because endometrial cancer usually causes vaginal bleeding between menstrual periods or after menopause, it is often detected at an early stage. Usually, the surgical removal of the uterus eliminates all of the cancer in case it is discovered early.
 

Work Group:


Symptoms, Causes

Symptoms:

This type of cancer usually occurs in postmenstrual women whose periods have stopped, and so abnormal vaginal bleeding is the first sign that something is not right. Some of the signs and symptoms of endometrial cancer could be:

 

  • Pelvic pain
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Any bleeding after menopause
  • Prolonged periods or bleeding between periods
  • An abnormal, non-bloody discharge from the vagina.

 

In case someone experiences any signs or symptoms of endometrial cancer, such as vaginal bleeding or discharge not related to periods, pain during intercourse or pelvic pain, they should see a doctor immediately because the earlier this cancer is detected, the greater the chances of being cured. Although many of the symptoms could be associated with noncancerous conditions including uterine fibroids, uterine polyps or vaginal infection, however, it is quite important to bring them to the attention of the doctor.

 

A person should ask their doctor about the screening tests that are appropriate for them in case they're at an increased risk of endometrial cancer. If someone has had had endometrial cancer, a regular follow-up program should be outlined for them in order to watch for possible recurrence.
 

Causes:

In order to keep the body functioning normally, healthy cells grow and divide in an orderly way. However, in some cases, cells could become mutated and start growing out of control and they continue dividing even when new cells aren’t needed. These abnormal cells invade and destroy nearby tissues and they could also travel to other parts of the body and begin growing there.

 

In this type of cancer, cancer cells develop in the lining of the uterus, the cause of which is still not known. But it is believed that estrogen levels play a role in the development of endometrial cancer. Some factors have been identified that can increase the levels of this hormone along with other risk factors, which continue to grow. There are also nonstop researches studying the changes in certain genes that could cause the cells in the endometrium to become cancerous.
 

Complications

Complications:

The cancer's ability to spread to other parts of the body (metastasize) is the most serious complication of any cancer, including endometrial cancer. However, this cancer is treatable when it’s discovered early. In the case of early-stage endometrial cancer, five-year survival rates are 95%. However, this type of cancer could be more difficult to treat in case it has reached an advanced stage before diagnosis and spread to other parts of the body.
 

Treatments:

The most common treatment for this type of cancer is surgery. The most recommended procedures are either removal of the uterus (hysterectomy) or the surgical removal of the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries (hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy). The lymph nodes that exist in that area should also be removed during surgery together with other tissue samples.

 

A hysterectomy is a major operation, and could be a difficult decision for some women because they can’t get pregnant after their uterus has been removed. However, in most cases, surgery is the only way to eliminate the need for further treatment or the cancer itself.

 

However, someone may need additional treatment in case their endometrial cancer has spread to other parts of the body or if they have an aggressive form of endometrial cancer. Some of these additional treatments include:

 

HORMONE THERAPY:

Synthetic progestin, which is a form of the hormone progesterone, could stop the cancer from growing in case it has spread to other parts of the body. This hormone is used in higher doses when it is treating endometrial cancer, than when it is used in hormone replacement therapy for menopausal women. Other medications could also be used. When women with early endometrial cancer want to have children and so don’t want to have a hysterectomy, they could be treated with progestin, but this method of treatment doesn’t lack the recurrence risk. Gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists are another hormone therapy option, which can lower estrogen levels in premenopausal women.

 

RADIATION:

A woman may be suggested to have radiation therapy after a hysterectomy in case the doctor believes that they're at high risk of cancer recurrence. A woman may also be suggested radiation therapy in case her cancerous tumor is fast growing, invades deeply into the muscle of the uterus or involves blood vessels.

 

This method of therapy involves the use of high-dose X-rays in order to kill cancer cells. It is called external beam radiation therapy in case it is done from outside the body. However, when the radiation is applied internally, usually to the inner lining of the uterus, it is called brachytherapy. Even though brachytherapy has fewer side effects than the conventional radiation therapy, but it only treats a small area of the body.

 

CHEMOTHERAPY:

The method in which drugs are used to kill cancer cells is called chemotherapy. In order to increase their efficacy, chemotherapy drugs are usually used in combination. Usually chemotherapy is part of the treatment for women with stage III or stage IV endometrial cancer. Chemotherapy drugs could be taken either orally or intravenously, which enter the bloodstream and travel through the body, killing cancer cells outside the uterus.

 

A woman should talk to her doctor about what side effects to expect from treatment and what can be done to manage them, because every type of treatment for endometrial cancer has its side effects.

 

A woman will most likely be recommended regular follow-up examinations after treatment for endometrial cancer in order to decide whether cancer has returned or not. A physical exam, a Pap test, a pelvic exam, a chest X-ray and laboratory tests are what checkups could include.
 

Prognosis:

Not available

Expert's opinion

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