This is cancer of the uterus or the uterine
linings - the endometrium.
What to look for
Uterine cancer causes no symptoms at
onset. They will usually become noticeable as the malignancy begins to grow. But there are
some women with uterine cancer who experience no symptoms until the disease spreads to
The most likely symptoms are:
abnormal vaginal bleeding - heavier than
normal periods or bleeding in between periods. (if you have had menopause, any bleeding
will be abnormal, unless you are on HRT).
an enlarged uterus.
unexpected weight loss;
weakness and pain in the lower abdomen,
back, or legs. (This occurs once the cancer has spread to other organs).
The uterine lining (the endometrium) in
women thickens every month as it prepares to receive a fertilised egg. If no egg is
fertilised, the extra tissue and blood are expelled through menstruation. There are a
number of conditions that can affect the uterus. These conditions may or may not be
Benign problems include fibroid tumours on
the uterine wall and women who have them are not at more of a risk for uterine cancer.
Endometriosis is the most serious benign uterine condition, and in some women it evolves
into uterine cancer.
The most common place in the uterus for
cancers to develop are in the endometrium. This is called endometrial cancer or carcinoma.
It is most dangerous if left untreated when it can penetrate the uterine wall and invade
the bladder, vagina, fallopian tubes, ovaries or rectum or other organs. Fortunately,
endometrial cancer grows slowly and usually is detected before spreading very far.
Women whose risk of getting uterine cancer
is high include postmenopausal women who began
menstruating early and went through menopause late, are obese, diabetic, or have high
blood pressure, have few or no children, are infertile, have
irregular menstrual periods, or endometrial
Susceptibility to endometrial cancer is
also linked to how much the endometrium has been exposed to oestrogen without
progesterone. Oestrogen stimulates cell division, while progesterone suppresses it. With a
high level of cell division, the chance of cancer increases. Women on HRT should be
monitored regularly for uterine cancers.
Pap smears should be regularly performed as
these may detect some uterine cancers before symptoms develop. Otherwise, uterine cancer
is usually diagnosed by the appearance of symptoms.
Conventional medicine is usually successful
in curing most women of uterine cancer. The type of treatment will vary depending on the
stage of the cancer.
Surgery is standard treatment for uterine
cancer that has not begun to metastasise, or spread. The usual treatment for early
endometrial cancer is total hysterectomy, which means the uterus, cervix, ovaries, and
fallopian tubes are all removed. If the disease has begun to spread beyond the uterus, the
patient is given radiation therapy after surgery, in the hope of wiping out the remaining
Patients with widespread (metastatic)
uterine cancer are usually given hormone therapy to slow the cancer's growth. Chemotherapy
or radiation might also be given to reduce the size and number of metastatic tumours. Such
treatment is rarely curative but can prolong life and relieve symptoms. If it destroys
tumours in the other organs, and the cancer is confined to the uterus or close surrounding
areas, surgery may then be undertaken.
Patients in remission need checkups every
few months for several years. If cancer recurs, it quite often happens within three years.
Caught early, recurrent cancer may be cured
with aggressive radiation therapy or further surgery. (See cancer)
There are many support groups to join if
you are needing extra help in dealing with this disease. Counselling also may be very
helpful for you at this time.
Have a Pap smear and pelvic exam annually.
If you are of child bearing age, discuss the pros and cons of taking birth-control pills
with your doctor.
It is also advisable to exercise regularly
and eat sensibly to become as healthy as you can. (See Cancer entry for more information
on this illness).
It is reported that certain vitamins and
minerals such as antioxidants may have anticancer properties.
When to seek further