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Endometrial Cancer

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Introduction

Endometrial cancer is one of the common medical conditions that affect many women. It mostly occurs in women after the age of 55. Each year, over 1 million cases of endometrial cancer are reported in India. Over 80 percent of women with endometrial cancer can survive for five years or longer after the treatment.

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What is Endometrial Cancer?

Endometrial cancer is a type of uterine cancer that develops in the uterine lining called the endometrium. Several other types of cancer can develop in the uterus, such as uterine sarcoma. However, it is less common than Endometrial cancer.

In most cases, Endometrial cancer is diagnosed at an early stage as it causes excessive vaginal bleeding. When diagnosed early, the removal of the uterus often cures Endometrial cancer.

What are the Causes of Endometrial Cancer?

The exact causes of Endometrial cancer are not known yet. However, doctors believe some factors increase your risk of developing it.

The mutations in the DNA of the endometrium cells are believed to be one of the causes. The mutations turn healthy cells into abnormal cells. The healthy cells grow at a particular rate and eventually die. On the other hand, the abnormal cells multiply uncontrollably and spread to different areas of the uterus. These accumulating abnormal cells lead to the formation of cancer.

The risk factors include:

  • ● Age
  • ● Obesity
  • ● Family history
  • ● Diabetes
  • ● Other forms of cancer
  • ● Radiation therapy
  • ● Hormonal imbalance
  • ● Poor diet
  • ● Certain medications such as tamoxifen

What are the Symptoms of Endometrial Cancer?

One of the most common symptoms of Endometrial cancer is abnormal vaginal bleeding. It can lead to:

  • ● Vaginal bleeding after menopause
  • ● Changes in the length or flow of the menstrual cycle
  • ● Spotting or vaginal bleeding between menstrual cycles

 

Other symptoms and signs of Endometrial cancer include:

  • ● Painful sexual intercourse
  • ● Unexplained weight loss
  • ● Difficult or painful urination
  • ● Pain in the pelvic region
  • ● Watery or slightly bloody vaginal discharge

If you experience any of these symptoms, immediately consult a doctor.

How is Endometrial Cancer Diagnosed?

To diagnose endometrial cancer, the doctor may ask you about your symptoms and medical history. He/She might do the following tests and examinations:

  • Pelvic examination: During a pelvic exam, the doctor will carefully examine the outer area of your genitals. He/She may insert a gloved hand into your vagina, while pressing the other hand gently on your abdomen to feel for tenderness or a mass.

The doctor may also visually examine your vagina and cervix with the help of a device called a speculum.

  • Imaging tests: The doctor may do an imaging test such as a transvaginal ultrasound. It will create detailed images of your vagina, uterus, and fallopian tubes using sound waves. It will help determine the texture and thickness of the endometrium and help rule out other medical conditions.
  • Hysteroscopy: During this test, the doctor will insert a thin, flexible tube with a small light (a hysteroscope) into your uterus. It will help the doctor to examine the interior of your uterus and the endometrium lining.
  • Biopsy: The doctor may take out a small sample of the endometrium lining for laboratory analysis.

How is Endometrial Cancer Treated?

Depending on the causes, stage of endometrial cancer, and your overall health, the doctor may devise a treatment plan for you.

The treatment options include:

  • Surgery: Usually, endometrial cancer treatment involves a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) along with salpingo-oophorectomy (removal of both fallopian tubes and ovaries). During the surgery, the surgeon may inspect other areas around the uterus to check whether the cancer cells have spread further.

If you undergo a hysterectomy, you will not be able to conceive in future. Also, with salpingo-oophorectomy, you will experience menopause.

  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy kills cancer cells with chemicals. The doctor may either prescribe you one chemotherapy drug or a combination of two or more drugs. These drugs can be taken either orally or intravenously (through the veins).

If there is an increased risk your cancer might return, the doctor may prescribe chemotherapy after surgery. For a successful outcome of the treatment, chemotherapy may be done before surgery to shrink the cancer cells.

  • Hormone therapy: It involves using hormones or hormone-blocking drugs to change the body’s hormone levels. It helps in slowing down the growth of cancer cells in the endometrium.
  • Targeted drug therapy

This therapy uses certain drugs to focus on the weaknesses of the cancer cells. By attacking the weaknesses, targeted drug therapy aims at killing these cancer cells. For treating advanced cases of endometrial cancer, the doctor may combine targeted drug therapy with chemotherapy.

Result

An early diagnosis and proper treatment can help provide a better recovery rate and avoid further complications. When diagnosed early, the surgical options can help cure endometrial cancer. In later stages of endometrial cancer, aggressive treatment options may be needed.

What are the Risks Associated with Endometrial Cancer treatments?

The risks from endometrial cancer surgery are common. However, in some cases, depending on the surgical approach, the patient may experience some risks, such as:

  • ● Wound infection
  • ● Vessel damage
  • ● Blood clots
  • ● Excessive bleeding
  • ● Damage to nearby tissues

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FAQ's

What Happens if Endometrial Cancer is Left Untreated?

Endometrial Cancer can spread to the bladder, rectum, vagina, fallopian tubes, ovaries, or other distant organs if left untreated. Fortunately, Endometrial Cancer spreads slowly and, with regular check-ups, can be diagnosed early.

What is the Difference Between Uterine Cancer and Endometrial Cancer?

Uterine Cancer is a disease that affects the tissues of the uterus. There are two common types of uterine cancer – Endometrial Cancer, which is common, and rare, and uterine sarcoma. Endometrial Cancer develops in the endometrial lining of the uterus,

Is Endometrial Cancer Deadly?

Endometrial Cancer is not fatal when diagnosed and treated in the early stages. The five-year survival rate of women who were diagnosed and treated in the early stages is 90 percent.

Is Stage IV Endometrial Cancer Terminal?

In most stage IV Endometrial Cancer cases, the cancer cells already spread to other parts of the body, which makes it difficult to be removed with surgery. A hysterectomy and removal of both ovaries and fallopian tubes may still help provide relief from some symptoms.

How Long Can a Patient Live with Stage IV Endometrial Cancer?

The average duration of response of stage IV Endometrial Cancer treatment is approximately 10 months. The survival period is about 16 months.

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