Cancer is a disease in which certain body cells don’t function right, divide very fast, and produce too much tissue that forms a tumor. Cancer of the uterus is cancer in the womb, the hollow, pear-shaped organ where a baby grows during a woman’s pregnancy. Endometrial cancer is one of the most common cancers in American women. In fact, about 40,000 American women receive a diagnosis of endometrial cancer each year, making it the fourth most common cancer found in women after breast cancer, lung cancer and colon cancer.
The cause of uterine cancer is unknown. Women who smoke over a pack of cigarettes a day actually have a lower risk of uterine cancer. But smoking raises their overall risk of early death so much that it cancels out any kind of protective effect. Endometrial hyperplasia is a condition that increases the risk for uterine cancer. About one-third of patients with hyperplasia develop endometrial cancer.
Common risk factors for the condition may include:
* Length of menstrual span
* History of breast cancer or ovarian cancer
Endometrial cancer rarely occurs before menopause, when a woman is having regular menstrual periods, but it does occur around the time that regular menstruation stops. In women who have not been through menopause or who are currently going through menopause, distinguishing normal menstrual bleeding from abnormal bleeding may be difficult. A heavier or more frequent period or bleeding between periods is sometimes linked to cancer in menstruating women.
Endometrial cancer can almost always be treated successfully if it’s caught early. You can increase the chances that endometrial cancer will be found early by telling your doctor about any unusual bleeding.
Radiation therapy involves the use of high-dose X-rays to kill cancer cells. If your doctor believes you’re at high risk of cancer recurrence, he or she may suggest that you have radiation therapy after a hysterectomy. Brachytherapy is another form of radiation that involves the internal application of radiation, usually to the inner lining of the uterus. Brachytherapy has significantly fewer side effects than conventional radiation therapy does. However, brachytherapy treats only a small area of the body.
Chemotherapy is a systemic treatment that uses a combination of drugs to slow tumor growth and destroy cancer cells. It may be used in addition to surgery to treat metastatic endometrial cancer and to prevent recurrent disease.