What is uterine cancer?
Cancers that occur in each part of the uterus have their own names, such as cervical cancer or endometrial cancer, but are sometimes broadly defined as uterine cancer because the structure is part of the uterus. Cancer of the uterus spreads through the bloodstream or lymphatic system. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), about 42,160 cases of cancer of the uterine corpus (body of the uterus) will be diagnosed in the US during 2009.
What are risk factors for uterine cancer?
The following have been suggested as risk factors for uterine cancer:
- age 50 or over
- history of endometrial hyperplasia
- estrogen replacement therapy (ERT)
- hypertension (high blood pressure)
- history of an inherited form of colon cancer
The following are known risk factors for uterine cancer:
What are the symptoms of uterine cancer?
- history of taking tamoxifen for breast cancer treatment or prevention
- race - African-American women are affected at a rate twice that of Caucasian or Asian women
- history of radiation therapy to the pelvic area
The following are the most common symptoms of uterine cancer. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
- unusual vaginal bleeding or discharge
- frequent, difficult, or painful urination
- pain during sexual intercourse
- pain in the pelvic area
Cancer of the uterus often does not occur before menopause. It usually occurs around the time menopause begins. The occasional reappearance of bleeding should not be considered simply part of menopause. It should always be checked by a physician.
The symptoms of uterine cancer may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Consult a physician for diagnosis.
How is uterine cancer diagnosed?
When symptoms suggest uterine cancer, the following may be used to make a positive diagnosis:
- a detailed medical history—family and personal
- a thorough physical exam
- pelvic examination of the uterus, vagina, ovaries, bladder, and rectum (may include a Pap test)
- biopsy—removal of sample of tissue via a hollow needle or scalpel
- dilation and curettage (D & C)—a minor operation in which the cervix is dilated (expanded) so that the cervical canal and uterine lining can be scraped with a curette (spoon-shaped instrument)
When cancer cells are found, other tests are used to determine if the disease has spread from the uterus to other parts of the body. These procedures may include:
Treatment for uterine cancer:
- blood tests
- chest x-rays
- computed tomography (CT or CAT) scans of various sections of the abdomen
- an ultrasound to view organs inside the body
- special exams of the bladder, colon, and rectum
Specific treatment for uterine cancer will be determined by your physician based on:
- your overall health and medical history
- extent of the disease
- your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
- expectations for the course of the disease
- your opinion or preference
Methods of treatment may include:
- hysterectomy—surgery to remove the uterus
- salpingo-oophorectomy—surgery to remove the fallopian tubes and ovaries
- radiation therapy
- hormone therapy