The uterus is a hollow pear-shaped organ in the woman’s lower abdomen. Cancer of the uterus is the most common cancer of the female reproductive tract. Cancer of the uterus is not common during the child bearing period. It usually occurs around the time of menopause. Because it grows slowly and women are alerted abnormal bleeding from the vagina, most cancers are detected and treated at an early stage and cure rates following surgery are very high.
What are the most common risk factors for uterine cancer?
Uterine cancer is common around the age of 50 or over. A history of endometrial hyperplasia (thickened uterine inner lining) is a risk factor. Medical problems like being overweight or being diabetic or hypertensive can result in uterine cancer. History of other cancers or taking tamoxifen for breast cancer treatment or prevention or taking estrogen replacement therapy without progesterone (ERT) is a risk factor.
What are the symptoms of cancer of the uterus?
The symptoms may resemble other conditions or medical problems so consult your physician for diagnosis. Symptoms will vary according to whether or not the woman is still having periods. If she is still having periods then the cancer may make her periods more irregular or heavier. If her periods have stopped, then any bleeding from the vagina is abnormal and should be investigated.
How is cancer of the uterus diagnosed?
Diagnosis includes a medical history and physical exam, including a pelvic exam to feel the vagina, rectum, and lower abdomen for masses or growths. The only certain means of diagnosis is a biopsy by dilation and curettage or hysteroscopy. Ultrasound examination is a very useful tool since it enables a doctor to identify uterine cancer and certain features that might make him or her suspect a cancer.
How can uterine cancer be prevented?
- Use birth control pills.
- Maintain a healthy weight and participate in physical activity.
- Ask your doctor if he/she can prescribe you progesterone.
- Talk with your doctor about how often you should be screened for uterine cancer especially if you have factors that increase your risk of getting the cancer.
- See your doctor right away if you have abnormal bleeding from the vagina.
How is cancer of the uterus treated?
The treatment depends upon whether the cancer has spread to involve other tissues in the pelvis or not. It also depends on the general health of the patient and permission for operations.
- Hysterectomy – surgical removal of the uterus, usually with removal of the tubes and ovaries. The five-year survival rates following surgery are over 70 per cent.
- Chemotherapy – the use of anticancer drugs to treat cancerous cells.
- Radiotherapy is aimed at destroying tumor cells that the gynecologist cannot see.
- Hormonal therapy