Uterine Cancer Information
The uterus, also called the womb, is a hollow, pear-shaped organ located in a woman's lower abdomen, between the bladder and the rectum.
Uterine cancer (cancer of the endometrium) is the most common gynecologic cancer. It typically afflicts postmenopausal women between ages 50 and 60. It's uncommon between ages 30 and 40 and rare before age 30. Most premenopausal women who develop uterine cancer have a history of anovulatory menstrual cycles or other hormonal imbalance. About 33,000 new cases of uterine cancer are reported annually; of these, roughly 5,500 are fatal.
The causes uterine cancer and not known. Some factors that seem to put women at more risk are:
Signs and Symptoms
Early uterine cancer usually is asymptomatic (i.e., does not cause symptoms). Abnormal vaginal bleeding, which is the most common symptom, may also result from a condition called dysfunctional uterine bleeding (DUB).
Other symptoms of uterine cancer include the following:
Advanced uterine cancer may cause weight loss, loss of appetite, and changes in bladder and bowel habits.
Endometrial, cervical, or endocervical biopsy confirms cancer cells. Fractional dilatation and curettage is used to identify the problem when the disease is suspected but the endometrial biopsy is negative.
Positive diagnosis requires these tests to provide baseline data and permit staging: multiple cervical biopsies and endocervical curettage to pinpoint cervical involvement; Schiller's test staining of the cervix and vagina with an iodine solution that turns healthy tissues brown (cancerous tissues resist the stain); computed tomography scans or magnetic resonance imaging to detect metastasis to the myometrium, cervix, lymph nodes, and other organs; and excretory urography and, possibly, cystoscopy to evaluate the urinary system.
Proctoscopy or barium enema studies may be performed if bladder and rectal involvement are suspected.
Depending on the extent of the disease, the treatment may include one or more of the following:
All women should have regular pelvic exams and Pap smears beginning at the onset of sexual activity (or at the age of 20 if not sexually active) to help detect signs of any abnormal development.
Since conditions associated with increased risk have been identified, it is important for women with such conditions to be followed more closely by their doctors. Frequent pelvic examinations and screening tests, including a Pap smear and endometrial biopsy, should be done.
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