Out of all the types of cancer a woman can get, uterine cancer is one of the most common. The disease affects the female reproductive system and comes in two main types: endometrial cancer and uterine sarcoma. Of the two, endometrial cancer is the most common. It originates in the inner lining, or endometrium, of the uterus and usually affects women between 50 and 65 years of age.
Uterine sarcoma originates in the muscles and tissues in the uterine wall. This type of cancer is rarer and occurs more in middle-aged and older women. Additionally, African-American women are more likely to develop uterine sarcoma than women of other races.
Uterine Cancer Causes
To this day, doctors and other medical professionals still don't know the root cause of uterine cancer. All we know is it causes cells in the endometrium or uterine wall to mutate and multiply at a rapid rate. When this happens, tumors form and invade other tissues and parts of the body.
Uterine Cancer Symptoms
Unlike some other types of cancer, uterine cancer has noticeable symptoms. For example, many women experience some type of abnormal vaginal bleeding prior to their doctor diagnosing them with uterine cancer. In younger patients, abnormal vaginal bleeding includes:
- Heavier Periods
- Spotting Between Periods
- Bleeding After Sexual Activity
In older women, abnormal bleeding usually occurs at the beginning of menopause or after menopause sets in. Other common symptoms include:
- Painful Urination
- Difficulty Urinating
- Pain During Sex
- Appearance of a Mass Inside the Vagina
Uterine Cancer Diagnosis
If you think you may have symptoms of uterine cancer, schedule an appointment with your gynecologist. During your appointment, your doctor will discuss your medical history and perform a pelvic exam and possibly a Pap test. During a Pap test, your doctor will collect cells from your cervix or upper part of your vagina. If cancer has spread outside your uterus, a Pap test will detect it.
Additionally, your doctor may collect a sample of endometrial tissue to examine under a microscope. During this procedure, known as an endometrial biopsy, your doctor will insert a thin tube into your uterus through the cervix to remove a small tissue sample.
In some cases, your doctor may recommend further testing. If testing detects cancer, your doctor will refer you to a gynecologic oncologist to treat your condition. From there, you will undergo blood and imaging tests to determine what stage of uterine cancer you have.
Uterine Cancer Treatment
Unfortunately, like many types of cancer, there are no definitive ways to prevent uterine cancer. Instead, there are recommendations that include eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly to maintain a healthy weight and blood pressure. If you're diagnosed with uterine cancer, your doctor will likely recommend radiation therapy or surgery, depending on what stage and type of cancer you have. The most common type of surgery for uterine cancer involves removing many parts of the female reproductive tract, including the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. Your doctor may also remove nearby lymph nodes to check for cancer cells. If your lymph nodes contain cancer, chances are the disease may have spread to nearby organs and tissues.
Uterine Cancer Prognosis
If your uterine cancer is quickly diagnosed and treated, you will have a better chance of a positive prognosis. However, even if treatment is effective and your cancer goes away, it's important to get regular check-ups because cancer can always come back.