Endometrial Cancer

The word Carcinos (Cancer) in Greek means Crab. Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine was the first one to describe tumors in cancer and he felt they resembled a crab. That is how the word cancer came into existence but the disease itself existed since centuries.

About endometrial cancer

Cancer can start in any part of the body and then it spreads to other parts. The cancer of the endometrium, which is the lining of uterus or the womb, is the most common type of uterine cancer found in women. Unusual bleeding from the vagina after menopause is the most common sign of endometrial cancer. Cure is possible if it is detected in early stages.

The risk of endometrial cancer is more in women above 50 years of age. High levels of estrogen hormone also lead to endometrial cancer. The estrogen levels increase in conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and overweight. In hormone replacement therapy, a combination of estrogen and progestin hormones is given to the patient.

Progestin helps in protecting the lining of uterus from estrogen while the growth of the endometrium is stimulated by estrogen. If progestin is not taken in hormone replacement therapy, there is increased risk of endometrial carcinoma.

Other risk factors include menstruating before 12 years of age, irregular ovulation, menopause after 50 years of age, obesity, diabetes, never being pregnant, and use of medication called tamoxifen.

Types of cancer in the uterus

There are two main cancers in the uterus. They are:

  • Uterine sarcomas which is develops in the muscle layer near connective tissue of the uterus.
  • Endometrial carcinomas develops in the inner lining o the uterus.

Endometrial carcinoma can be divided into many types based on the microscopic view and one such common type of endometrial adenocarcinoma is endometrioid adenocarcinoma. They are made up of cells in glands which look like the endometrium.

Based on the endometrial carcinoma staging the doctor will know the development of the tumor and would give appropriate medications and treatment.

Symptoms of endometrial cancer

There are a few endometrial cancer symptoms which are listed below:

  • Unusual vaginal bleeding
  • Spotting or discharge from the vagina
  • Pelvic pain
  • Weight loss

Diagnosis

For diagnosing endometrial cancer, a procedure known as endometrial biopsy is done where a small amount of uterine tissue is removed by inserting a narrow tube into the uterus through the vagina. After removal this tissue is sent to the lab where it is tested for presence of any precancerous or cancerous cells.

A procedure known as dilatation and curettage is done under general anesthesia (patient is not conscious) wherein dilatation or widening of the cervix (opening of the uterus) is done. The uterine tissue is then scraped with an instrument for analysis.

In patients who are suffering from conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and other types of cancers, it is not safe to give anesthesia. In such cases, CT scan, MRI scan and ultrasound help in diagnosis of endometrial cancer.

Treatment

Endometrial cancer treatment is done by surgical removal of the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes. The surgical removal of uterus alone is known as Hysterectomy.

If the cancer is severe and spreading to other parts of the body, the doctor will recommend radiation therapy in which cancer cells are killed by high dosage of X-rays. In chemotherapy, the drugs that kill the cancer cells are given either orally or intravenously.

To stop the growth of cancer cells, synthetic progestin which is a form of progesterone hormone is given. For women with endometrial cancer in early stages who do not want to go for hysterectomy because they want children, can go for progestin therapy.

To lower estrogen hormone levels in premenopausal women, an option is hormone therapy which is called gonadotropin releasing hormone agonists.

Survival and success rate

The one year survival rate for endometrial cancer is 92%. If the cancer has not spread then the 5 year survival rate is 95%. If the cancer has spread to different organs of the body, then the 5 year survival rate is just 23 %.

Cancer Organizations

The National cancer institute which is a part of the U.S National Institutes of Health gives all the information you need to know about cancer. Another organization called the American cancer society gives all information regarding types of cancer, healthy living tips, research, and support groups.

Beating all odds

The life of Fran Descher who is a two time Golden Globe winner is an inspiration to all women who are suffering from Cancer. Descher was diagnosed with uterine cancer and underwent hysterectomy and she has been doing well since then.

She took up the initiative to educate people regarding cancer and wrote it in a book called ‘cancer Schmancer’. In this book she stresses the need to detect the signs of cancer early.

On the seventh anniversary of her hysterectomy, she launched a nonprofit organization called the cancer Schmancer movement which helps women to detect cancers in stage 1 or initial stage itself as the prognosis of cancer is good when detected and treated at the initial stage itself.

She has not only beaten all odds to survive cancer, but also she is making a difference in people’s lives by bringing about cancer awareness.