A woman’s uterus (womb), between the bladder and rectum, includes the cervix and the body. The cervix connects the uterus and vagina, and the body is connected to the fallopian tubes. Uterine cancer is cancer that grows in the lining of the uterus. Cancer can start from the cervix or the inner layer of the uterus (endometrium). It can also start from the body of the uterus; these rare tumors are uterine sarcomas.
Uterine cancer occurs most often in women who went through menopause (change of life).
The cause isn’t known, but many things can increase the risk. History of pelvic radiation, taking the hormone estrogen without also using progesterone, and being very overweight may lead to higher risk.
Other conditions that increase risk are family history of breast or ovarian cancer, uterine polyps, hormone imbalance, and going through menopause later than usual.
Early symptoms include bleeding and spotting, especially after sex. Watery or blood-streaked vaginal discharge can happen just before bleeding or spotting. Often bleeding occurs after periods have stopped for 12 months or more. The uterus may get larger, large enough to feel low in the abdomen (belly).
Later symptoms, after cancer spreads to other organs, include pain in the abdomen and chest and weight loss.
The health care provider will make a diagnosis from the medical history, physical examination, and endometrial biopsy. In this biopsy, the doctor will take a tissue sample from the uterus and test it for cancer. Uterine cancer can spread to the bladder, rectum, and other organs. Other tests will be done to stage the cancer—find out whether it has spread and how far. Tests include Pap smears, mammography, blood tests, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasonography, and scraping the uterine wall.
Treatment depends on the cancer’s spread. Usually the uterus and tumor, ovaries, and fallopian tubes will be removed in surgery.
Then radiotherapy, hormonal therapy, cortisone drugs, and chemotherapy may be used to shrink remaining cancer and prevent spread of cancer. An oncologist (doctor specializing in cancer) will help in your care.
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