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Endometrial cancer: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About endometrial cancer

Endometrial cancer refers to the cancer of inner lining of the uterus. This cancer (abnormal growth of cells) is malignant and slow-growing in nature. It is one of the commonest gynaecological cancers encountered in post-menopausal women.

Endometrial cancer: Incidence, age and sex

Endometrial cancer is a common malignant condition encountered in female population. Although it can occur in any age group, it mainly afflicts women in their 60s and 70s. One in every 50 post-menopausal women may suffer from this cancer.

Signs and symptoms of endometrial cancer: Diagnosis

Endometrial cancer presents with abnormal uterine bleeding which may present as either vaginal bleeding between periods or after menopause. Lower abdominal or pelvic pain or even a dull pain in back may be observed in an individual with endometrial cancer. Occasionally, the individual may complain of profuse vaginal discharge, especially after menopause.

Endometrial cancer is known to be associated with certain conditions like high blood pressure, polycystic ovarian disease and occasionally carcinoma of the breast.

It is advisable to consult a specialist who will conduct a detailed pelvic examination and recommend tests like Pap smear. Pap smear is generally a screening test wherein the cervical swab is examined under a microscope to detect abnormal or cancerous cells. An endometrial biopsy may help in establishing the diagnosis of endometrial cancer. Pelvic structures may also need to undergo imaging evaluation to look for spread of cancer.

Causes and prevention of endometrial cancer

The exact cause of endometrial cancer is not quite clear. It is suspected to result from increased levels of oestrogen in the body. The hormone, oestrogen is responsible for growth and proliferation of uterine tissue. Women who have diabetes or endometrial polyps or who are taking hormone replacement therapy are more susceptible for endometrial cancer. Other risk factors include early commencement of menstruation, late menopause or history of radiation to pelvis.

Endometrial cancer: Complications

Endometrial cancer, if ignored may spread to the pelvic lymph nodes. Sometimes it may directly spread to the urinary bladder and lead to disastrous consequences. Very rarely, it may spread beyond pelvis, to the bowel and other abdominal structures.

Endometrial cancer: Treatment

The treatment modalities include chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery, and therefore need to be chosen according to the stage of cancer. If the cancer is diagnosed early and has not spread beyond the uterus, then surgical removal of the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries, is the choice of treatment. Generally, radiation and chemotherapeutic intervention is not needed at this stage. Whereas, spread of cancer to pelvic lymph nodes warrant radiation prior and post-surgery. In rare instances, when the cancer has spread to the abdominal structures, it needs chemotherapeutic drugs along with radiation and surgery in managing it. The prognosis of endometrial cancer is good, if diagnosed early and leads to complete remission, in most of the individuals.