Uterine cancer is the most common gynecologic cancer (i.e., cancer that originates in female reproductive system).
It develops in the body of the uterus, or womb, which is a hollow organ located in the lower abdomen.
The wall of the uterus is comprised of an inner lining (called the endometrium) and an outer layer of muscle tissue (called the myometrium).
Causes of Uterine Cancer
The cause of uterine cancer is described in the preceding matter. Uterine cancer or Cancer of the uterus occurs most often in women between the ages of 55 and 70. This disease accounts for about 6 percent of all cancers in women. Research shows that some women are more likely than others to develop uterine cancer.
Obese women, women who have few or no children, women who began menstruating at a young age, those who had a late menopause, and women of high socioeconomic status are at increased risk of developing this disease. It appears that most of the risk factors for uterine cancer are related to hormones, especially excess estrogen.
Studies have shown that women taking estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) for menopausal symptoms have a two to eight time’s greater risk of developing uterine cancer than women who do not take estrogens.
The risk increases after 2 to 4 years of use and seems to be greatest when large doses are taken for long periods of time. A woman who takes ERT after her uterus has been removed is in no danger of developing uterine cancer. Many doctors now believe that using a combination of estrogen and progestin (another female hormone) for replacement therapy decreases the risk of uterine cancer.
It is especially important for all women taking replacement therapy to be checked regularly for any signs of cancer. Unusual bleeding should be reported to the doctor at once.
Recent evidence shows that the use of birth control pills may decrease the risk of developing uterine cancer. Women who use a combination pill (containing both estrogen and progestin in each pill) for at least 1 year have only half the risk of uterine cancer as women who use other types of birth control pills or none. The longer a woman takes the combination pill, the more this protection increases.
Uterine Cancer Symptoms or Uterine Cancer signs
Abnormal bleeding after menopause is the most common uterine cancer symptoms or uterine cancer signs. Bleeding may begin as a watery, blood-streaked discharge. Later, the discharge may contain more blood.
Uterine cancer or Cancer of the uterus does not often occur before menopause, but it does occur around the time menopause begins. The reappearance of bleeding should not be considered simply part of menopause; it should always be checked by a doctor.
Abnormal bleeding is not always a sign of cancer. It is important for a woman to see her doctor, however, because that is the only way to find out what the problem is. Any illness should be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible, but early diagnosis is especially important for uterine cancer.
Uterine Cancer Treatment
A number of factors are considered to determine the best uterine cancer treatment. Among these factors are the stage of the disease, the growth rate of the cancer, and the age and general health of the woman.
Methods of Treating Uterine Cancer
Surgery, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, or chemotherapy may be used to treat uterine cancer.
In its early stage, uterine cancer usually is treated with surgery. Surgery is generally performed in women with uterine cancer but who are otherwise healthy. By removing cancerous tissues first, radiation therapy and chemotherapy are often more successful. Surgery will remove all visible cancerous cells. Generally, the uterus and cervix will be removed in a process called a hysterectomy. The uterus and cervix are removed (hysterectomy), as well as the fallopian tubes and ovaries (salpingo-oophorectomy).
Surgery is generally the most effective treatment though it does have its side effects. If the ovaries are removed, one will enter into menopause, which is often accompanied by severe menopause symptoms. Some doctors recommend radiation therapy before surgery to shrink the cancer.
Others prefer to evaluate the patient carefully during surgery and recommend radiation therapy after surgery for patients whose tumors appear likely to recur. A combination of external and internal radiation therapy often is used.
If the uterine cancer has spread extensively or has recurred after treatment, a female hormone (progesterone) or chemotherapy may be recommended.
Radiation therapy (also called x-ray therapy, radiotherapy, or irradiation) uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. It is often used in combination with surgical treatment. Radiation may be given from a machine located outside the body (external radiation therapy), or radioactive material may be placed inside the body (internal radiation therapy).
Side effects include: fatigue, loss of appetite, dryness, itching in the vagina, and diarrhea.
Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to treat cancer. Often, a combination of these methods is used. In some cases, the patient is referred to specialists in the different kinds of cancer treatment.
Side effects include: nausea, hair loss, loss of appetite, and mouth or vaginal sores.
In hormone therapy, female hormones are used to stop the growth of cancer cells. Hormone therapy is sometimes used to slow the growth of cancer cells. It is an excellent choice for those who cannot undergo surgery for health reasons. In order to grow, cancer cells feed off of hormones that the body produces.
Progesterone supplements counteract these hormones, preventing the cancer from spreading. Side effects include: fatigue, retaining fluids, changes in menstrual periods, and appetite and weight changes.
Uterine Cancer Prognosis and Survival Rate
The ‘prognosis‘ usually refers to the likely outcome of Uterine Cancer. The uterine cancer prognosis may include the duration of Uterine Cancer, chances of complications of Uterine Cancer, probable outcomes, prospects for recovery, recovery period for Uterine Cancer, survival rates, death rates, and other outcome possibilities in the overall prognosis of Uterine Cancer. Naturally, such forecast issues are by their nature unpredictable.
Prognosis is a forecast of the probable course and/or outcome of a disease or condition. It is most often expressed as the percentage of patients who are expected to survive over five or ten years. Uterine cancer prognosis is a notoriously inexact process. This is because the predictions are based on the experience of large groups of patients suffering from cancers at various stages.
Using this information to predict the future of an individual patient is always imperfect and often flawed, but it is the only method available. Prognosis provided in this monograph and elsewhere should always be interpreted with this limitation in mind.
Five-year survival rates for uterine cancer are:
- Stage I: 90%
- Stage II: 70% to 85%
- Stage III: 50%
- Stage IV: 10% to 30