With an estimated 60,500 diagnoses of uterine cancer in the United States this year, it is important to know the early warning signs, so that you may get medical attention as early as possible. Uterine cancer, if not detected early enough, is deadly, and therefore, it is crucial to know what your uterus may be trying to tell you.
What Causes Uterine Cancer?
The most common cause of uterine cancer, sometimes called endometrial cancer, is a level of the estrogen hormone which is much higher than the level of the progesterone hormone in the body. This hormonal imbalance results in a uterine lining which is too thick, in which cancer cells can develop.
Women who have irregular ovulation cycles, due to conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome, obesity, or diabetes, are at a higher risk for uterine cancer. Women who have never been pregnant are also at a higher risk, and the majority of uterine cancer cases are diagnosed in women who have undergone menopause.
What Are The Early Symptoms Of Uterine Cancer?
While some women who have uterine cancer may not experience any symptoms early on, there are some common symptoms which require immediate medical attention. Common symptoms include unusual vaginal bleeding or spotting, occurring between periods or after menopause. Some women will have a light pink discharge.
Other early warning signs include unusual pelvic pain. Some women experience painful urination, and others experience pelvic pain during intercourse, while some women will experience general pain in the pelvic region for what may seem like no reason at all.
Many of these symptoms are similar to the symptoms of endometriosis, a non-deadly condition in which the uterine lining grows outside the wall of the uterus. However, if you experience any of the symptoms above, it is important that you schedule an appointment with your gynecologist as soon as possible, and speak in detail about your symptoms.
How Is Uterine Cancer Diagnosed?
To properly diagnose uterine cancer, your gynecologist will perform a pelvic examination. They may schedule a sonogram so that they may see any abnormalities. If they discover an abnormality in your uterus, they will order a biopsy to determine if the uterine tissue is cancerous. If the biopsy results determine that you have uterine cancer, your gynecologist will refer you to a gynecologic oncologist, who specializes in cancers of the female reproductive system.
How Is Uterine Cancer Treated?
Treatment of uterine cancer depends on how advanced the cancer is. Many women who catch the cancer early on choose to undergo a hysterectomy, in which the uterus is completely removed, thus removing the cancer. Women who have had a hysterectomy can no longer get pregnant.
If the cancer is more advanced, your doctor will likely suggest radiation therapy. Radiation uses powerful energy beams to kill cancer cells, and can also shrink cancerous tumors.
Although uterine cancer can ultimately lead to death, an early diagnosis can most definitely save your life. Therefore, it is important to know the early symptoms of uterine cancer, and to immediately notify your doctor should you experience any of the symptoms listed above.