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What is uterine cancer?
Uterine cancer is a growth of malignant cells in endometrial (uterine) lining and/or endometrial muscle. It usually occurs after 50 years of age but minority of women may present with uterine cancer before 40 years of age also. However, more than 80% of uterine cancer do present in early stage (thanks to early presentation of symptoms) and thus, can be 100% cured in majority cases.
What causes uterine cancer?
Not all the times, but majority women with uterine cancer have imbalance of hormones. The ovaries make most of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. So, if the uterus is exposed to too much estrogen over a long period of time due to any underlying reason, cancer cells may develop.
Thus, there are many risk factors that can lead to excess hormone levels in the body:
Note: Having one or two risk factors does not mean you will definitely develop uterine cancer. Women with most of the risk factors might not develop cancer. On the other hand, women with no risk factor might develop. Thus, the key to early diagnosis is to consult your gynaecologist as soon as you notice any of the following abnormal symptoms.
How do uterine tumors present?
How is the diagnosis of uterine cancer confirmed?
With above mentioned symptoms, your doctor with do a physical examination, this will include a pelvic examination and some further test:
NOTE: Its a very common myth that taking biopsy spreads cancer further. IT IS NOT AT ALL TRUE. Biopsy only confirms cancer. It DOES NOT spread the cancer further.
What are the treatment options for uterine cancer?
Surgery is the first modality of treatment for uterine cancer and most of the times, it is the only modality required. Surgery for uterine cancer includes removal of uterus along with both the ovaries and tubes, pelvic and para-aortic lymph nodes (to see if the cancer has spread to these areas). Surgery can be performed either by incision on abdomen (open technique) or through laparoscope/robot (minimal invasive approach). Your doctor shall discuss with you which modality should be preferred in your case.
Radiation therapy is mostly used, if required, after surgery to decrease the chances of recurrence in the future. Whether you require radiation after surgery or not will be decided according to histo-pathological report of surgical specimen.
Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. It is usually given to women after surgery whose cancer has spread beyond uterus at the time of diagnosis or to treat a cancer which comes back.
NOTE: Uterine cancer is generally consider as one of good cancers where cure is 100% possible in about >95% of women.
How can I prevent /reduce my risk of uterine cancer?
By avoiding as many risk factors as possible. However, early reporting of symptoms to your doctor is the key to early diagnosis and successful treatment.