Cancer of the endometrium, a common kind of cancer in women, is a disease in which cancer (malignant) cells are found in the lining of the uterus (endometrium). The uterus is the hollow, pear-shaped organ where a baby grows during a woman’s pregnancy. Cancer of the endometrium is different from cancer of the muscle of the uterus (called sarcoma of the uterus). You should see a doctor if you have any of the following problems: bleeding or discharge not related to menstruation, difficult or painful urination, pain during intercourse, or pain in the pelvic areas.
Risk factors for endometrial cancer
One risk factor for endometrial cancer is an increase in the number of normal cells lining the uterus (endometrial hyperplasia). Since incidence of endometrial cancer may be related to hormonal changes, any condition which elevates hormone levels may put women at increased risk. Oestrogen replacement therapy, some ovarian tumours, obesity, having few or no children, and late menopause are all associated with elevated hormone levels.
Diagnosis of endometrial cancer
Your doctor may use several tests to see if you have cancer, usually beginning with an internal (pelvic) examination. During the examination, your doctor will feel for any lumps or changes in the shape of the uterus. Your doctor will then do a Pap Test, using a piece of cotton, a brush, or a small wooden stick to gently scrape the outside of the cervix (opening of the uterus) and vagina to pick up cells for microscopic study.
Because cancer of the endometrium begins inside the uterus, it does not usually show up on a Pap Test. For this reason, your doctor may also do a dilation and curettage (D&C) or similar test to remove pieces of the lining of the uterus. During a D&C, the opening of the cervix is stretched with a spoon-shaped instrument and the walls of the uterus are gently scraped to remove any growths. This tissue is then checked for cancer cells.
Treatment for endometrial cancer?
Surgery is the most common treatment for cancer of the endometrium. Your doctor may take out the cancer using one of the following operations:
- Total abdominal hysterectomy and bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy, both involve the removal of the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries through a cut in the abdomen. Lymph nodes in the pelvis may also be removed (lymph node dissection). The lymph nodes are small, bean-shaped structures found throughout the body that produce and store infection-fighting cells, but may also contain cancer cells.
- Radical hysterectomy involves removing the cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, and part of the vaginal. Lymph nodes in the area may also be taken out.