When abnormal cells affect the healthy body tissues and spread to the other parts of the body through the blood and lymph systems, the condition that develops is called cancer. It can be of various kinds and originate in any part of the body. Cancer can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetics, environmental exposure, and lifestyle choices. It can also occur as a result of mutations or damage to the DNA within cells, which can lead to abnormal cell growth and division. Early detection and treatment are crucial for improving the chances of survival and recovery. There are different ways to diagnose cancer, such as physical examination, imaging, and biopsy. The treatment options also vary and depend on the type, stage and location of the cancer, age, and overall health of the patient.
Uterine cancer, also known as endometrial cancer, is a type of cancer that affects the lining of the uterus, which is the hollow, pear-shaped organ in a woman’s pelvis where a foetus develops. It is the second most common cancer of the female reproductive system.
Highlighting the signs and symptoms of uterine cancer
● Uterine cancer often does not cause any symptoms in the early stages, but as it progresses, it can lead to several symptoms. The most common symptoms of uterine cancer include:
● Vaginal bleeding or discharge that is not normal, such as bleeding after menopause, spotting between periods, or bleeding that is heavy or prolonged.
● Pelvic pain or pressure, which can be felt in the lower abdomen or pelvis.
● Fatigue or weakness, which can be caused by anaemia if the cancer causes bleeding.
● Pain during intercourse.
● Difficulty urinating or bowel movements.
Causes of uterine cancer
The exact cause of uterine cancer is not well understood, but there are several risk factors that have been linked to the development of the disease. Some of the most important risk factors include:
Age: The risk of uterine cancer increases with age, with most cases occurring in women over the age of 50.
Hormonal factors: High levels of oestrogen and low levels of progesterone can increase the risk of endometrial cancer.
Obesity: women who are overweight or obese have an increased risk of developing endometrial cancer.
Genetics: Certain genetic conditions, such as Lynch syndrome, can increase the risk of uterine cancer.
High blood pressure and diabetes: Hypertension and high blood sugar increase the risk of uterine cancer.
Oestrogen therapy alone without progesterone: This increases the oestrogen level in the body which could amp up the chance of getting uterine cancer.
The various ways of recognising early symptoms of uterine cancer
Uterine cancer often does not cause any symptoms in the early stages, which can make it difficult to detect. However, there are certain things that women can do to recognise the early symptoms of the disease, like:
● Paying attention to any changes in vaginal bleeding or discharge, as well as any other symptoms that are not normal.
● Seeing a doctor for regular check-ups, particularly if one is over the age of 50 or has other risk factors for the disease.
● Being aware of one’s family history of the disease, as a family history of uterine cancer can increase the risk of developing the disease.
● Maintaining a healthy weight, eating a well-balanced diet, and getting regular exercise can also reduce the risk of developing endometrial cancer.
● Keeping track of the symptoms and communicating it effectively to the doctor.
Treatment approach for uterine cancer
Treatment for uterine cancer will depend on the stage of cancer, as well as the patient’s overall health. Some of the most common treatment options include:
Surgery: Surgery is often the primary treatment for uterine cancer and can involve removing the uterus and/or other organs, such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes.
Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams to kill cancer cells, and it is used as a complementary to surgery in high-grade early endometrial cancers and in advanced-stage cancer
Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is a systemic treatment that uses drugs to kill cancer cells throughout the body. It is often used to treat advanced stage endometrial cancer and can be given either intravenously or orally.
Hormonal therapy: Hormone therapy is a treatment option for endometrial cancer that is not responsive to surgery or radiation, but it is not as common as other treatments. Hormone therapy can be given in the form of pills or injection to decrease the levels of oestrogen in the body to stop the cancer growth.
After the treatment, close monitoring is required, and frequent check-ups are necessary to ensure there is no cancer recurrence. In some cases, surgery may be followed by additional treatment, such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy, to destroy any remaining cancer cells and decrease the risk of recurrence.
It’s important to remember that every patient is unique and the treatment plan that works best for one person may not be the best option for another. It’s crucial to have an open discussion with your doctor to understand your options and to make an informed decision that is tailored to your individual needs. Additionally, it is important to take good care of oneself during and after the treatment, and to seek emotional and psychological support, if necessary.
Authored by Dr. Deepak H L , Associate Consultant MS (General Surgery) , HCG Cancer Centre Kalaburgi