Hearing the doctor pronounce a diagnosis of uterine cancer is bound to be scary. But don't be too quick to panic: this is a treatable form of cancer, as long as it's caught at the beginning. Uterine cancer, more accurately called endometrial cancer, tends to be very common among American women.
This type of cancer starts to develop in the cells contained in the lining, or endometrium, of the uterus. The uterus is a pear-shaped organ that is also known as the womb. It is here that a fertilized egg can grow and develop into a baby.
Though most people refer to endometrial cancer as uterine cancer, there are other areas of the uterus in which cancer can develop, such as inside the myometrial cells. However, these other uterine cancers, which develop as sarcomas, are much rarer than endometrial cancer.
A part of normal body function involves the growth and division of cells according to distinct patterns. But sometimes the cells become altered or mutate and cell growth accelerates at a wild pace. Even though the cells are now too numerous for normal body needs, they continue to divide and grow. At some point, the cells will migrate outside of their original location and journey to other parts of the body, destroying the healthy tissue and then settling in to grow.
Experts have not found a definitive cause as to why cancer cells start to develop within the endometrium. Some researchers believe that fluctuating levels of estrogen may trigger the cancer. As a result of this theory, most research in the field of endometrial cancer has focused on what causes an increase in the production of this female hormone. Other researchers are studying the risk factors that are linked to endometrial cancer in hopes of finding a clue to a cause. Still more researchers are examining changes in genetic material that might cause abnormal endometrial cell growth.
But for all the mystery, endometrial cancer is the most treatable of the various forms of female cancer. One reason for this is that a woman is likely to have symptoms while the cancer is still in its earliest, most treatable stage. The main symptom of this cancer is vaginal bleeding between periods or postmenopausal vaginal bleeding. The treatment for ovarian cancer is the removal of the uterus (hysterectomy).
Most endometrial cancer occurs in postmenopausal women. Bleeding after menopause should always signal a woman to see her gynecologist. Here are the symptoms of endometrial cancer:
*Unexplained weight loss
*Bleeding between periods
*Pain during sex
*An unusual non-bloody vaginal discharge