Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment
Endometrial cancer is a condition in which abnormal cell growth occurs in the inner lining of the uterus (endometrium). Check out an explanation of the symptoms, causes, and how to treat it in the following review.
What is Endometrial Cancer?
Endometrial cancer is cancer of the endometrium or the inner lining of the uterus. In most cases, uterine cancer begins with endometrial cancer.
If you don’t get proper treatment, this condition can spread to the bladder, rectum, vagina, ovaries, or more distant organs.
Endometrial cancer is slow growing, so regular checkups are needed to find this cancer before it spreads any further.
Endometrial Cancer Symptoms
Some women have no significant symptoms until the cancer has spread to other organs. Most others experience early symptoms in the form of:
- Vaginal bleeding between menstrual cycles.
- Leucorrhoea with different textures such as thick, watery, or brownish in color.
- Postmenopausal vaginal bleeding.
Other symptoms are common, such as:
- Pelvic pain
- Lower abdominal pain.
- Pain when urinating
- Pain during sex.
- Enlarged uterus.
Symptoms of vaginal bleeding are very common, but they are not always associated with uterine cancer. Conditions such as hormonal changes, the effects of menopause, and other non-cancerous conditions can also cause vaginal bleeding or unusual vaginal discharge.
When is the Right Time to See a Doctor?
Call your doctor right away if you experience any unusual and worrying symptoms of vaginal bleeding.
In addition, seeing a doctor is necessary if vaginal bleeding occurs before menopause. Uterine cancer can occur during the menopausal transition. Early diagnosis of a disease will help care and treatment easier.
Also Read: Enlarged Uterus, But Not Pregnant? This is the Cause
Endometrial Cancer Causes and Risk Factors
The exact cause of this condition is not known with certainty, but in most cases, cancer This occurs due to changes in the levels of estrogen and progesterone in the body. In addition, this condition may also occur due to mutations or changes in DNA in the lining of the uterus.
Cell mutations are changes in normal and healthy cells into abnormal cells due to free radicals. These abnormal cells grow rapidly to transform into a tumor. Cancer cells can attack these tissues.
Although the cause cannot be ascertained, there are several factors that can increase the risk of endometrial cancer, including:
- Changes in hormone balance. Fluctuations in the balance of the hormones estrogen and progesterone can cause changes in the endometrium. The condition polycystic ovary syndrome, Irregular menstruation, obesity, and diabetes can increase the risk.
- Longer menstrual periods. Menstruating at a very early age (less than 12 years) or having a longer menopause can increase the risk of this cancer.
- Never been pregnant. People who have never been pregnant have a higher risk of developing endometrial cancer than women who have been pregnant.
- Age. As you get older, the risk of developing endometrial cancer will also increase. This cancer mostly appears after menopause.
- Obesity. Having excess weight can disrupt the balance of hormones thereby increasing the risk of endometrial cancer.
- Breast cancer hormone therapy. Someone who has taken hormone therapy drugs has a higher risk of developing endometrial cancer.
- Genetics. If there are family members who have or are currently experiencing cancer, the risk of other family members getting this cancer will increase.
Endometrial Cancer Diagnosis
Before making a diagnosis, the doctor will ask questions about the symptoms experienced and the patient’s medical history. After that, the doctor will also do a physical examination.
If there is a suspicion that leads to endometrial cancer, the doctor may suggest further tests, including:
This examination is done by examining the pelvis outside the vagina. Furthermore, an examination of the inside of the vagina is also carried out by inserting two fingers while pressing on the patient’s stomach. This examination aims to detect abnormalities of the uterus, ovaries, vagina, and cervix.
This ultrasound examination is carried out using a device called a transducer. The doctor will do a biopsy if the endometrial wall looks too thick.
This examination is carried out by inserting a special tool equipped with a camera and light into the uterus. The purpose of this examination is to see the condition of the inside of the uterus.
This examination procedure is carried out using a small tube that is inserted into the uterus. This step is done to take a sample of endometrial tissue.
The sample is then sent to the laboratory to see whether or not the growth of cancer cells is present.
This examination is done by scraping or scraping endometrial tissue with a special tool. In general, this procedure is taken if the biopsy does not provide enough information to make a diagnosis.
This examination is carried out by taking a sample from the cervix. The sample is then sent to a laboratory to see changes that occur, such as cancer cell growth, infection, or inflammation. This examination can detect the spread of cancer cells.
Types of Endometrial Cancer
Cancer of the inner lining of the uterus is classified into two main types, namely:
- Type 1: Cancer that develops slowly and tends not to spread to other tissues around the uterus.
- Type 2: Cancer cells that are more aggressive and have a risk of spreading to other tissues around the uterus.
Endometrial cancer also has several forms, including:
- Uterine carcinosarcoma.
- Squamous cell carcinoma.
- Small cell carcinoma.
- Transitional carcinoma.
- Serous carcinoma.
According to American Cancer Society, The most common form of uterine lining cancer is adenocarcinoma.
Endometrial Cancer Stage
The following is a classification of endometrial cancer stages, including:
- Stage I: cancer cells are in the uterus.
- Stage II: cancer cells spread in the uterus and cervix.
- Stage III: cancer cells spread outside the uterus, may be found in the fallopian tubes, vagina, ovaries, and soft tissue around the uterus.
- Stage IV: cancer cells spread to the pelvic area, may also develop to the bladder, rectum, or other tissues further from the uterus.
Examination of the stage of this cancer will determine further treatment. Early-stage uterine lining cancer generally develops slowly and must be treated quickly before it is at risk for the next stage.
Also Read: Causes of boils in the vagina and how to treat them
Endometrial Cancer Treatment
Treatment is adjusted to your type, stage, medical history and health condition. The doctor will provide several treatment recommendations, including:
1. Radiation Therapy
Radiotherapy uses high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells. There are two types of radiation, including:
- External beam radiation therapy: using an external radiation machine that is focused on the uterus from outside the body.
- Internal radiation therapy: a type of radiation therapy by placing radioactive materials in the body to treat cancer, can be inserted into the uterus or vagina.
Radiation therapy can be used before surgery to shrink cancer cells and make surgery easier. This therapy can also be done without a combination of other treatments, especially if you cannot have surgery for medical reasons.
Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment with drugs to kill cancer cells. There are several types of chemotherapy drugs that will be prescribed according to the condition. Chemotherapy is recommended if cancer cells spread outside the uterus.
3. Hormone therapy
Hormone therapy is used for stage III and IV cancer patients; with hormone blocking drugs to balance the body’s hormone levels. This therapy can help suppress the growth of cancer cells.
Hysterectomy is recommended when cancer cells have spread uncontrollably to other tissues outside the uterus. Hysterectomy means the woman is no longer able to get pregnant. Consult your doctor about the other risks of this procedure.
Endometrial Cancer Prevention
This type of cancer may not be prevented because the cause cannot be ascertained. You can set yourself up to reduce your risk in several ways, such as:
- Maintain ideal body weight.
- Regular exercise.
- Get checked immediately if you experience unusual vaginal bleeding.
- Ask your doctor about the potential benefits of contraception.
- Tell your doctor if you have a history of Lynch syndrome.
- Anonymous. Eendometrial Cancer. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/endometrial-cancer/causes-risks-prevention.html. (Accessed February 17, 2023).
- Anonymous. 2021. Endometrial cancer. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/endometrial-cancer/symptoms-causes/syc-20352461. (Accessed February 17, 2023).
- Anonymous. 2022. Understanding Endometrial Cancer — the Basics. https://www.webmd.com/cancer/understanding-endometrial-cancer-basics. (Accessed February 17, 2023).
- Grey, Heather. 2022. Everything You Need To Know About Endometrial (Uterine) Cancer. https://www.healthline.com/health/endometrial-cancer. (Accessed February 17, 2023).
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