Endometrial Cancer: 5 Things to Keep in Mind
Endometrial cancer is more common after menopause, although it can sometimes appear in women younger than 40 years old. If you have a family history of gynecological cancers, it would be a good idea to establish periodic checkups.
Recent studies suggest endometrial cancer generally affects 1 out of every 100 women. It is most common in post-menopausal women.
This is a fairly common type of gynecological cancer, but in spite of that, it is still not the most lethal.
As is common with most of these things, early detection undoubtedly increases the hope for survival.
It is still currently unknown what exactly causes this disease, but constant estrogen changes are suspected to increase growth of abnormal malignant cells in the lining of the uterus.
This article will provide all the information you need to know.
Endometrial cancer: important things to know
In order to better understand how this disease starts and grows, you first need to look at the uterus, and understand how it is structured.
1. The uterus and its changes throughout the menstrual cycle
- The uterus is the part of the female reproductive system that develops the fetus in the event of pregnancy. It consists of two parts: the cervix (the lower part that extends to the vagina) and the uterus, or the upper part.
- The uterus has two layers: the inner part consists of a lining known as the endometrium. The outer part is the myometrium.
- Throughout menstrual cycle, hormones cause the endometrium to undergo slight changes.
- During ovulation, for example, estrogen is released, which cause the endometrium to become slightly thicker so as to feed the embryo in the event of a possible pregnancy.
- Once ovulation is finished, the lining of the endometrium is released, causing menstruation.
- This occurs over the span of one’s fertile years, until menopause.
It is between 50 and 60 years of age, once menopause has started, that the first carcinomas or sarcomas can develop. This simply means that there is a greater risk that certain cells will grow and adhere to the internal lining of the uterus.
2. Obesity and high blood pressure: two important factors
As suggested at the beginning of this article, there is currently no way of precisely determining what causes these changes in the endometrial tissues to cause invasive malignant cells to form in the uterine lining.
In spite of this, experts say that there are risk factors that could cause these changes, two of which include being obese and having high blood pressure.
- The fatty tissue that accumulates in the body due to obesity increases the possibility of having heightened cholesterol levels. This causes a type of metabolism that ends up creating spikes in estrogen levels.
- All of this affects the connective tissues in the mammary glands, the endometrium, and the vagina, causing changes and increasing the risk of developing cancer.
We must point out that there is not a 100% direct correlation with obesity and cancer, simply an increased probability of preventing it if you take care of your weight.
3. Tamoxifen (medication to treat breast cancer) could increase the risk of endometrial cancer
- This is another risk factor to keep in mind, which affects all women that have had breast cancer and who are taking tamoxifen.
- This pharmaceutical drug could changes in hormone levels that could then unleash possible changes in the uterine structure.
- In spite of this danger, doctors state that with a simple regular pelvic exam, symptoms can be detected, such as loss of vaginal blood.
4. Symptoms of endometrial cancer
- Bleeding outside of menstruation or when you should not be bleeding after menopause.
- Intense and constant abdominal pain.
- Pressure and sharp pain in the pelvis or low back.
- Intense pain during intercourse.
- Pain during urination.
5. Prevention and periodic checkups
One thing you should always keep in mind is that endometrial cancer starts in the inner lining of the uterus. Sometimes, especially during the early stages, it could register as negative on a common Pap smear test.
That’s why it’s always best to have a biopsy of the endometrial tissue, collecting a small sample, so a more in-depth analysis can be performed under a microscope.
You could also get a transvaginal ultrasound to be more sure.
If you have a family history of gynecological cancers, you should also see your primary care doctor for more frequent exams. You should also follow certain preventive measures that could be helpful to you.
It turns out yet again that endometrial cancer has a fairly high rate of being cured. The key for this disease is always early detection.
Make sure to be careful with your life habits, and set up periodic checkups with your gynecologist. It’s worth it.