Uterine cancer also called endometrial cancer, is a disease characterized by abnormal cell growth in the uterus. There are two major types of uterine cancer – adenocarcinoma and sarcoma. Adenocarcinoma is the more common of the two – and it originates in the endometrium or lining of the uterine walls. Sarcoma accounts for a much smaller percentage of occurrences, and it forms in the uterine muscle – named the myometrium.
During a woman’s life, the hormonal cycle maintains uterine health by shedding its lining every month during the period. When the childbearing cycle comes to an end and menopause starts, the ovaries stop producing eggs and the lining doesn’t shed anymore. This is when uterine cancers are the most common.
While the specific causes are not known, as with most cancers, certain risk factors increase the rate of cell mutations that can start cancerous growth. These risk factors include:
The ovaries are responsible for two female hormones – estrogen and progesterone. A balance of the amount of both of these hormones is healthy, but they can be thrown out of balance from various diseases or conditions. When the amount of estrogen is higher than the amount of progesterone, your risk for endometrial cancer goes up. For example, irregular hormonal cycles, obesity, and diabetes can all offset these balances.
Getting older causes a lot of changes that can trigger endometrial cancer. It’s especially common after menopause when the hormonal cycle doesn’t keep homeostasis in check.
Extra fat puts a strain on the body in a number of different ways. As it turns out, even the body’s chemistry is affected when weight becomes an issue. Body fat alters hormone production in the body, and in turn, causes cancer.
Longer Years of Menstruation
The menstrual cycle is the body’s way of keeping the uterus healthy and functional for childbearing, but beginning the cycle early or ending late can overwork its function. Essentially, as the body’s subjected to more periods it’s also exposed to more estrogen. The longer a woman’s childbearing years last, the more likely they are to develop cervical cancer.
Uterine cancer affects the health and chemistry of the body dramatically, oftentimes causing very noticeable changes. A large identifying factor of uterine cancer is discharge or irregular bleeding – during or beyond the follicular phases of the period. Abnormality is categorized by either the intensity, duration, or timing of the bleeding stage – and it’s important to keep track of on a regular basis. Pain or a feeling of pressure inside the uterus can also be an indication of a tumor forming in the area.
Prevention is a process of identifying factors that could increase or decrease your chance of developing cancer, and then following up with regular screening. For example, smoking or inheriting certain genes from your parents are two large factors that physicians take into consideration when looking at your medical history. Conversely, exercising and eating right are protective factors – ones that decrease that risk. Making time to talk with your doctor about these factors is a good step to take toward prevention.
There exist a number of tests that can help screen you for existing cancerous cells or growths, though most are only administered after symptoms present themselves. Pelvic and transvaginal ultrasounds use sound waves and their “reflections” inside your body to gauge the density of tissues underneath the “wand” – helping to find dense, tumorous masses. Doctors scan your cervix, uterine walls, ovaries, and fallopian tubes with these methods.
Doctors can also take tissue samples of the uterus, also known as biopsies. This involves using diagnostic tools to examine the endometrium through a couple of different means and then removing a small sample to investigate further if anything comes back suspect. Oftentimes, the patient will either be locally anesthetized or fully sedated for the procedure and returns with a very high degree of certainty.