Cancer of the uterus is one of the most common cancers of the female reproductive system. It occurs when a cancerous tumour grows in the lining of the uterus (endometrium).
There are no clear causes of cancer till date. However, from the case studies, it has been derived that the disorder is common in women aged 55 to 65 years. It can also occur to women who have had abnormally high levels of the female sex hormone – oestrogen. The high oestrogen levels are usually due to overweight and certain other disorders like polycystic ovary syndrome. The disorder is also more likely in women who have had a late menopause or who have not had children.
The symptoms depend upon its development, whether it develops before or after menopause. These symptoms may include:
- Women who are in their pre-menopausal stage may experience heavy bleeding between periods or after sexual intercourse
- Women who are in their post-menopausal stage, may experience vaginal bleeding that may vary from spotting to heavy bleeding.
Any cancer, including that of the uterus requires early treatment. If left untreated, it may spread to other parts like fallopian tubes and the ovaries, and may go to lungs and even liver.
If you are suspected of the cancer of uterus from your symptoms, the doctor would perform a pelvic examination. To check if you have cancer, a small sample of tissue may be taken from the lining of uterus. It can be further checked for the presence of cancerous cells. Your doctor may also arrange for ultrasound scanning to assess the thickness of the lining of the uterus. If the lining is thicker than normal, it probably indicates cancer of the uterus.
In extreme cases, a hysteroscopy can be done to remove a larger amount of tissue from the uterus. When this procedure is completed, the doctor is also able to directly view the lining of the uterus to check for any abnormal growth. If the test is positive, the doctor should immediately examine other organs where the cancer can possibly spread. You may have to go for X-ray of chest, MRI of the pelvis and abdomen. You may also have blood tests to assess the function of the liver to find out the consequences of cancer.
The treatment for cancer of uterus should be started as soon as the stage of cancer is diagnosed. In most women, the tumour can be treated by removing the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes. The surgery is known as hysterectomy. To check whether the disease has spread, samples from nearby pelvic lymph nodes are taken and examined under a microscope. After surgery, you may be given radiotherapy to destroy the remaining cells completely. If cancerous cells are found in the lymph nodes, you will be treated with chemotherapy and the female hormone progesterone, which helps to slow down the growth of cancer cells. After the treatment, follow-up regularly with the doctor to check for the possible signs and symptoms of cancerous changes in the pelvis. About four in five women who are treated when it is at an early stage survive for five years or longer.