- Symptoms of Endometrial Cancer
- Endometrial Cancer Risk Factors
- Treatment for Endometrial Cancer
- Steps to Prevention
- Coping with Endometrial Cancer
- Endometrial Cancer Resources
According to the American Cancer Society’s research, endometrial cancer is the most common reproductive organ cancer affecting women in the United States. With an estimated 47,130 new cases of endometrial cancer in the next year, it is clear this disease affects a large number of women. Take time to educate yourself, learn prevention measures and discover new resources that will help you or someone you love fight the battle against endometrial cancer.
Symptoms of Endometrial Cancer
The following are signs and symptoms that might indicate the presence of endometrial cancer:
Changes in vaginal bleeding and discharge- The American Cancer Society notes that 9 out of 10 women with endometrial cancer experience abnormal vaginal bleeding. For women who are still having menstrual cycles, this could mean bleeding or spotting between periods, and for postmenopausal women, they experience unexpected bleeding. Also, the presence of watery or blood-tinged discharge is considered a red flag for illness as well.
Pelvic pain - Though this sign is somewhat broad, having pain or aching in your pelvis is a sign of endometrial cancer.
Endometrial Cancer Risk Factors
Currently, there is no direct cause to endometrial cancer. However, these are risk factors linked to endometrial cancer:
Number of menstruation cycles - The more menstruation cycles a woman has during the course of her life places her at a higher risk for developing endometrial cancer. This is because the lining of the uterus is exposed to more estrogen, which is linked to developing endometrial cancer.
Obesity - Fat tissues can alter a woman’s hormone levels. If she carries a lot of weight, her estrogen levels rise, making endometrial cancer a greater risk.
Family history - Since endometrial cancer has a tendency to run in families, if you have a genetic history of this type of illness consider it a red flag.
Smoking - By choosing to smoke cigarettes, you place your health at risk for contracting several different types of cancer.
Age - As women age their risk for endometrial cancer rises. This type of cancer is found mostly in women over the age of forty.
Race - According to research from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, white women are 70% more likely to develop endometrial cancer than African-American women.
Diet - A diet high in fat poses a threat to your health in general, as well as increasing your risk for many forms of cancer.
Breast and ovarian cancer - If you have previously had breast or ovarian cancer, your chances of contracting endometrial cancer are higher.
Pregnancy - When women go through pregnancy, their hormones sway more towards progesterone not estrogen, which means women who have been pregnant have a lower risk for endometrial cancer than women who have not been pregnant.
Tamoxifen - This drug is used to treat breast cancer. While the drug offers positive results for treating breast cancer, it raises the risk of developing endometrial cancer.
Endometrial hyperplasia - This condition involves rapid cell growth within the lining of the uterus. Typically these cells do not start out cancerous but do have the potential to develop into cancer throughout the course of time.
Treatment for Endometrial Cancer
Here are a few ways endometrial cancer can be diagnosed:
- Endometrial Biopsy
- Vaginal Ultrasound
- Dilation and Curettage (D&C)
After your cancer is diagnosed, your doctor will discuss your treatment options and set up a health care plan. These are some treatment measures for endometrial cancer:
Surgery - For some women with endometrial cancer, a hysterectomy is their best option. This surgery involves removing the entire uterus. Depending on the specific location of your cancer or how far it has progressed, removal of the fallopian tubes and ovaries might also be necessary.
Radiation - Radiation is used to kill cancer cells and may be used more extensively post-surgery to help prevent the recurrence of cancer growth. Radiation therapy can take place externally through beams or machines directed at a specific spot on your body or internally where small radiation-filled pieces are inserted into the vagina.
Chemotherapy - Chemo is used to kill cancer cells, and often an option for women who are suffering from late-stage endometrial cancer that has progressed beyond the uterus.
Steps to Prevention
These are ways you can reduce your chances of developing endometrial cancer:
Exercise - Choosing to exercise regularly helps your body maintain a healthy weight. Since heavy weight gain is a risk-factor for endometrial cancer, exercise becomes a vital step to prevention. The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends being active at least a half hour every day.
Birth control pills - The risk of contracting endometrial cancer lowers when you take birth control for a year. Be sure and consult a physician because birth control does have several side effects. It is vital that you weigh your options before choosing this approach.
Drink coffee - A recent Harvard study shows that drinking four or more cups of coffee per day lowers your risk of developing endometrial cancer by 25%.
Annual exam - It is important to stay up-to-date on your yearly gynecological exams. This will provide you with an added peace of mind knowing that you are doing the best you can to protect your body. It also gives you the opportunity to be informed of any changes that might be taking place, like the presence of cancerous cells.
Coping with Endometrial Cancer
Being diagnosed with any form of cancer is devastating, but women with endometrial cancer have to confront the harsh reality that their ability to have children may be in jeopardy. Even beyond that potential threat, the road through cancer testing, treatment and recovery can be utterly exhausting. Having a strong support system in place while you are battling cancer is vital.
Take care of yourself - Sometimes remembering to prioritize yourself is the last thing on your mind but caring for yourself simply equips your body to fight cancer better. This can be achieved by staying fit, eating healthy meals, allowing plenty of time to rest and knowing when to seek help. Don’t be afraid to ask others for help. Battling cancer is draining, and you may not have the energy or physical strength to take on all the things you used to. Save your strength for healing.
Join a Community - Being diagnosed with cancer can leave you feeling pretty isolated. No one should ever feel alone on this difficult journey. Take time to heal emotionally and mentally by joining a support group, talking with a counselor, hearing survivors’ stories and spending time with those you love. It might be tempting to pull away from others, feeling fearful of how they might respond to your health, but now is a time where support from others can be a vital encouragement.
Seek quality health care - Your medical team is one of your biggest assets throughout your battle with cancer. Be sure and find doctors that meet your medical needs and listen to your concerns. Don’t be afraid to seek out more than one professional opinion in regards to treatment, care plans and preventative measures. Though you may feel out of control when battling cancer, your body is still yours. Choosing the right doctor is just one way that you can have a choice in the midst of illness.
Endometrial Cancer Resources
Here are some resources that provide helpful information regarding endometrial cancer.
Seattle Cancer Care Alliance
825 Eastlake Avenue E.
Seattle WA 98109-1023
Women's Cancer Network
230 W. Monroe, Suite 2528
Chicago, IL 60606
National Cancer Institute
6116 Executive Boulevard, Suite 300
Bethesda, MD 20892-8322
American Institute for Cancer Research
1759 R Street NW
Washington, DC 20009
National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship
1010 Wayne Avenue, Suite 770
Silver Spring, MD 20910