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What is Endometrial Cancer? Here's What You Need to Know

What is Endometrial Cancer? Here's What You Need to Know

What is endometrial cancer?

Endometrial cancer is a type of cancer that affects the uterus. Cancer cells form in the tissues of the endometrium (inner lining of the uterus).

The types of endometrial cancer include:

  • Adenocarcinoma
  • Serous carcinoma
  • Small cell carcinoma
  • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Transitional carcinoma
  • Uterine carcinoma

Low and high-grade tumors

Like all cancers, endometrial cancer has different grades. These are divided into two types: lower-grade cancers (grade 1 and 2) and high-grade cancers (3).

In low-grade cancers, the tumor is still considered to be low risk, or it is unlikely to spread to other parts of the body. High-grade cancers have tumors with a tendency to grow and spread.

Grade 1

In this grade, 95% or more of the cancer tissues form glands that look similar to the glands found in a healthy endometrium.

Grade 2

Between 50% and 94% of cancer tissues form such glands.

Grade 3

Less than half of the cancer tissues form glands. This grade of cancer is more aggressive.

What is endometrial cancer? Signs and symptoms

The most common symptoms include:

  • Unusual vaginal bleeding (such as bleeding after menopause)
  • Pain in the pelvis
  • Bleeding between periods

Cause of Ovarian Cancer: 5 Things You Need to Know

Causes and risk factors

Health professionals do not know the main cause of endometrial cancer. However, among the risk factors are imbalances in the body’s levels of progesterone and estrogen.

Having more progesterone than estrogen increases the risk of this kind of cancer. Situations that result in an increase in estrogen but not progesterone include suffering polycystic ovary syndrome, taking estrogen hormones, and having ovarian tumors that secrete estrogen.

Other risk factors include the following:

  • The elderly are much more prone to this condition. This cancer usually occurs in women who are already menopausal.
  • Women who had their menstruation at an early age (before the age of 12) are more likely to have this form of cancer. Women who have experienced having menstruation for a longer time are more likely to have endometrial cancer.
  • Obesity is another risk because excess body fat can cause an imbalance in the hormones.
  • Women who have never experienced being pregnant are at higher risk.
  • Having Lynch syndrome also increases a woman’s chances of having endometrial cancer and other types of cancer (such as colon cancer).
  • Taking a drug called tamoxifen (a medication for breast cancer) may put women at risk of this kind of cancer.

Diagnosis

Doctors may perform pelvic exams and imaging tests to determine if a patient has endometrial cancer.

Doctors also need to take a sample of endometrial tissue from the patient. This may be done by using a tube passed from the cervix and into the uterus, to collect some tissue samples from the endometrium. Another method is by dilating the cervix with a speculum and using a curette, or a spoon-shaped apparatus, to scrape out tissue samples.

These samples are studied under a microscope to determine if there are cancer cells.

Treatment

The most common treatment for endometrial cancer is surgery. This may include a hysterectomy, or a surgery to remove the uterus.

Other treatments include:

  • Chemotherapy. Therapists use very strong chemicals to eliminate the patient’s cancer cells. Medication is taken through oral means or injected through the veins.
  • Hormone therapy. Medication is used to lower hormone levels. Since cancer cells live off of hormones, there is a possibility that the cancer cells may eventually die due to the decreased level of hormones.
  • Immunotherapy. This type of treatment helps the body fight off cancer cells by making the immune system stronger.
  • Targeted drug therapy. Doctors prescribe medication that specifically attacks cancer cells.

Key takeaway

Endometrial cancer should be treated immediately as it can cause death, especially due to the severity of a grade 3 cancer. Those most at risk include menopausal women, obese women, and those who have never been pregnant. Treatment for this condition includes surgery, as well as other forms of cancer management therapies.

Learn about Other Cancers here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Endometrial Cancer Treatment (PDQ®)–Patient Version, https://www.cancer.gov/types/uterine/patient/endometrial-treatment-pdq

Accessed April 19, 2021 

 

Endometrial cancer, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/endometrial-cancer/symptoms-causes/syc-20352461

Accessed April 19, 2021 

 

What Is Endometrial Cancer?, https://www.cancer.org/cancer/endometrial-cancer/about/what-is-endometrial-cancer.html

Accessed May 6, 2021

 

Diagnosis – Womb (uterus) cancer, 

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/womb-cancer/diagnosis/

Accessed May 6, 2021

 

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Written by Jen Mallari Updated May 06
Fact Checked by Hello Doctor Medical Panel
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