September is Endometrial / Uterine Cancer Awareness Month
Endometrial cancer, also known as uterine cancer, is the most frequent gynecological cancer in the United States, affecting approximately 52,630 women per year according to the American Cancer Society. This type of cancer is formed when there’s an abnormal malignant growth of cells within a women’s uterus. This includes both endometrial cancer (cancer of the inner lining of the uterus) and cancer of the uterine body (sarcomas) which makes up about 2% of the cases. Endometrial cancer usually has a high survival rate with approximately 8,590 deaths in 2014.
As with all cancers, early detection is key. Here are some signs that you could be in danger of endometrial cancer:
-If you’re experiencing vaginal bleeding (even a little bit) and you haven’t had your period for a year, you need to be seen by a gynecologist to be evaluated.
-Endometrial cancer is usually estrogen dependent. So if you have PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) or don’t get your period regularly, there can be an overgrowth of the uterine lining (called the endometrium). This lining sloughs each month when one has a period, but if your period is irregular, this lining can overgrow and develop into cancer.
-If you are overweight or obese – LOSE WEIGHT!! This extra weight is doing you no good in any aspect, it is hard for your heart, your joints and having more fat increases the amount of estrogen in your body and increases your chance of getting endometrial cancer.
-If you’ve never had children, this increases your chances due to the lack of estrogen your body produces.
-Having your first period before the age of 12 raises your chances.
-If you’ve experience menopause after the age of 55. The average age of women who have uterine cancer is 60.
-If your family members have a history of uterine cancer, your chances increase due to genetics.
-History of having radiation therapy to the pelvis raise your chances.
-If you have a history of taking tamoxifen, a drug used to decrease the chance of getting breast cancer, have an increased risk of uterine cancer.
-Women who have diabetes or eat diets that are high in fat are at higher risk.
-Your risks are higher if you have a history of taking estrogen without progesterone, a drug that helps preventing changes in the uterus after menopause.
Endometrial cancer is more usual in women that are postmenopausal (women who haven’t had any bleeding for more than a year). However, it can be found in younger women that have irregular menstrual cycles. If you are still menstruating but have irregular menses – ask your gynecologist about starting on a birth control pill or having a Progesterone IUD placed. This protects the inner lining of the uterus decreasing your chances of developing endometrial cancer.
If you have been diagnosed with endometrial or uterine cancer treatment includes surgery (hysterectomy), and additional chemotherapy, radiation therapy or hormonal therapy. This cancer can usually be treated laparoscopically with minimally invasive techniques. Always discuss all options with your doctor before making a decision. Sometimes it’s even best to get a second opinion. Whatever choice you make, make sure you ask the following questions:
- What are the risks and complications?
- How many of these procedures have you done?
- Why are you choosing this option? Is this truly the best choice for me?
- How long will it take me to recover?
- When will I be able to maintain physical activity?
- How can I prepare for my treatment, physically and mentally?
- Do you suggest a support team?
- Will it affect my sex life?
- What is the treatment most likely to cost? Will my insurance cover it?
- Will I need to stay in a hospital? For how long?
If you have any of the warning signs or symptoms above, please call your gynecologist. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have any questions and feel free to search our website with valuable information regarding gynecological issues.