Uterine cancer, also known as endometrial cancer, is a form of cancer that begins in the uterus. It is considered the most common form of cancer involving the female reproductive organs, and doctors estimate that in 2018, more than 63,000 new cases of uterine cancer will be diagnosed. Because of these statistics, it is vital for every woman to get to know some of the facts about uterine cancer as well as the treatments available for the disease. Then you can better deal with the situation if you are ever diagnosed with uterine cancer.
Signs of Uterine Cancer
One of the problems with uterine cancer is that it can be tricky to diagnose. Oftentimes, the signs and symptoms of this form of cancer mimic other reproductive health issues. For example, bleeding in between periods is one sign of uterine cancer. Heavy bleeding during menstrual periods can also be a sign. However, these symptoms can also be a sign of endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and other more common reproductive issues.
Other signs and symptoms of uterine cancer include pain during sexual intercourse, unusual vaginal discharge, a swollen uterus (which usually is only found when an annual exam is performed), pain when urinating, generalized pelvic pain, and weight loss. Most doctors will exhaust the more likely reproductive health conditions before screening for cancer, which can delay a uterine cancer diagnosis and treatment.
How Uterine Cancer Is Diagnosed
When a doctor suspects that you are suffering from uterine cancer, they will need to run a series of tests to determine whether this is the case. Blood tests can help to detect cancer cells in the body, for example. But to find out whether you have cancer in the uterus specifically, you will need to have tests like ultrasounds, MRIs, and even x-rays to look for signs of growths or tumors.
These scans in combination with blood work and uterine cultures (tests on tissue from the lining of your uterus) can verify a diagnosis of uterine cancer.
How Uterine Cancer Is Treated
The ways in which uterine cancer is treated will depend on whether the cancer has spread to other organs or areas of the body. When the cancer is limited to the uterus or only has spread to the other reproductive organs like the fallopian tubes and the ovaries, the main treatment is surgery.
Surgery to remove the uterus, known as a hysterectomy, can be performed alone, or a combination of a hysterectomy, oophorectomy (ovary removal), and salpingectomy (fallopian tube removal) can be performed at the same time. Removing these affected reproductive organs can sometimes be enough to completely rid the body of cancer.
However, oftentimes doctors like to err on the side of caution. This means that other treatments will usually be recommended as well. Radiation therapy is one such option. The radiation targets the remaining tissues in the pelvic area to rid the body of any cancer cells that may have been missed in surgery.
Chemotherapy is also a treatment option for uterine cancer, particularly when the cancer has spread beyond the uterus. Both intravenous (infusion) chemotherapy and oral chemotherapy options are available for uterine cancer. Additionally, trying to adjust the hormone levels in the body through treatments and medications can help slow the spread and growth of uterine cancer cells.
Knowing this information about uterine cancer, you can be sure to schedule an appointment with your doctor as soon as you notice any signs or symptoms and have MRIs and other tests run as soon as possible to determine whether or not you have uterine cancer.