ancers of the uterus most often began in the endometrium, or lining, of the uterus, and is often termed endometrial cancer. Uterine cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers of the pelvic region, and is the fourth most common type of cancer among women. Uterine cancer is often diagnosed following menopause, between 50 and 60 years of age.
A number of risk factors can increase the potential for a woman to be diagnosed with uterine cancer. Several of these include:
It is believed that high levels of estrogen promote excessive growth of tissues in the lining of the uterus. Therefore, a woman who experienced more menstrual periods during her lifetime may have an increased risk of developing the cancer. Use of tamoxifen, a breast cancer drug, blocks estrogen not only in breast tissues, but in the uterus, which may also increase risk.
In most cases, a gynecologist performing a routine pelvic exam accompanied by a Pap smear may suspect the presence of endometrial cancer growth, and will request a biopsy, which is performed in the office. In more than 90% of cases, this biopsy is effective in detecting endometrial cancer. In other cases, the doctor may also request a D&C (dilation and cartridge), during which tissues are scraped from the uterine lining for further testing. Hysteroscopy may also be employed, utilizing a special tool with a viewing tube that allows for the doctor to view the endometrium.
If cancer has been diagnosed, your doctor, in conjunction with an oncologist, will then begin tests to determine whether the cancer has spread beyond the uterus. The cancer will be staged based on resulting information.
When detected early, nearly 90% of women who have been diagnosed with endometrial cancer have a good survival rate, and prognosis is especially positive if the cancer has not spread beyond the uterus.
One of the most common treatments recommended for diagnosis of uterine cancer is a hysterectomy, or surgical removal of the uterus. Hysterectomy may also include removal of fallopian tubes and ovaries. In some cases, and to err on the side of caution, surrounding or nearby lymph nodes are also removed.
Based on testing of these surrounding organs, your doctor may also recommend chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or other procedures following surgery. Even if the cancer has not spread, chemotherapy may be recommended, as in some cases, undetected cancerous cells may have been left behind. When cancer has spread beyond the uterus, surgery followed by radiation therapy is recommended.
Synthetic drugs called progestins may also prove effective for women, especially in cases where cancer has spread beyond the uterus.
A gynecologist, oncologist, or a combination of a number of individuals who form a team, most commonly deal with uterine cancers. Depending on training and specialty, a gynecologist or an oncologist (cancer specialist) may perform biopsies, diagnostics, and hysterectomies as needed. Ensure that any gynecologist, oncologist, or other team members are board-certified, trained and experienced in their area of specialty.
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