According to the American Cancer Society, about 66,000 new cases of uterine cancer will be diagnosed in 2023 and nearly 13,000 women will die from uterine cancers. With nearly 3% of women receiving a uterine cancer diagnosis at some point in their lives, this type of cancer is the most prevalent of all gynecologic cancers, occurring most often in women over the age of 45.
Below, learn more about uterine cancer, its causes, and symptoms to be aware of. In addition, this guide will help provide useful information to help you reduce your risk of uterine cancer and learn about screening for uterine cancer.
What is Uterine Cancer?
Uterine cancer is a general term that describes any cancer that forms in a woman’s uterus. The most common type of uterine cancer, known as endometrial cancer, forms within the endometrium lining of the uterus. This condition causes abnormal cancer cells to develop in this location and proliferate rapidly.
Who Gets Uterine Cancer?
Uterine cancer occurs in the uterus, a female muscular organ that is part of the female reproductive system. As such, uterine cancer can only affect women or people who were assigned female at birth. Uterine cancer is the sixth most common cause of cancer-related death in women in the United States and is seen more commonly in African-American women. The average age of diagnosis of uterine cancer is around age 60.
What Are the Causes of Uterine Cancer?
There are many factors that may cause uterine cancer, however, the causes are not well understood by the medical community. However, certain risk factors may increase a person’s likelihood of developing uterine cancer.
What Are the Risk Factors for Uterine Cancer?
Several risk factors play a role in increasing a person’s likelihood of developing uterine cancer. The following risk factors may contribute to a uterine cancer diagnosis:
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
- Radiation therapy for other types of cancer
- Women who started their menstrual period at a young age
- Women who start menopause at a late age
- Women who have never been pregnant
- Women who have not had full-term pregnancies
- Family history
- Long-term use of hormone replacement therapy (Estrogen)
- Women who have used the drug Tamoxifen
What Are the Types of Uterine Cancer?
There are two types of uterine cancer. The most common type, known as endometrial cancer, accounts for more than 90% of cases seen. A rarer form, known as uterine sarcoma, involves the formation of a sarcoma in the muscles or other tissues in or around the uterus. A sarcoma is a type of cancer that forms in connective or bone tissue.
Within the uterine sarcoma category, there are several sub-categories of very rare uterine cancers.
What Are the Symptoms of Uterine Cancer?
The symptoms of uterine cancer can present differently in every patient, varying based on a number of factors. However, unusual vaginal bleeding is one of the most commonly seen symptoms of uterine cancer. If you experience any abnormal vaginal bleeding, it’s important to seek help from your healthcare provider. In addition to bleeding, other symptoms of uterine cancer include:
- Vaginal discharge with an odor
- Changes in urination
- Abdominal pain
- Feeling full
- Weight loss
- Painful sexual intercourse
- Changes in bowel habits
These symptoms may be associated with a variety of medical conditions and do not mean you have uterine cancer . However, it’s important to check in with your healthcare provider if you are concerned. It may also be helpful to set up free cancer screening reminders as part of your preventative wellness routine. Our free and low cost mammography can help ensure you are regularly screened for breast cancer.
Can You Screen for Uterine Cancer?
Screening for uterine cancer is not typically done for women who are not experiencing ay symptoms. A pap test that is done during a standard gynecological exam does not screen for uterine cancer. While you can and should get cancer screenings for other common cancers, it’s important to pay attention to symptoms of uterine cancer since there is no screening test.
How is Uterine Cancer Diagnosed?
If you’re experiencing any symptoms of uterine cancer, your doctor may order more tests to take a deeper look. This may include a transvaginal ultrasound, a test that allows the doctor to see inside your uterus. An endometrial biopsy, which removes a small amount of tissue, may also be ordered. The type of methods of diagnosis your doctor uses will depend on your symptoms, age, and other health conditions.
What is the Staging for Uterine Cancer?
There are four main stages of uterine cancer, which include:
- Stage 1: The cancer is confined to the uterus
- Stage 2: Cancer has now spread to the cervix
- Stage 3: Cancer has spread to vagina, ovaries, and/or lymph nodes
- Stage 4: Cancer has spread to bladder, rectum, or other organs
Upon diagnosis, about 70% of women are still in the early stages of uterine cancer. About 20% of women who are diagnosed with uterine cancer are already in stage 3, whereas 10% are diagnosed in stage 4.
How is Uterine Cancer Treated?
The treatment of uterine cancer depends on the stage of diagnosis. Women who are at stage 1 uterine cancer may require a combination approach, which may include radiation therapy, cancer medications, or surgical removal. Based on your medical history and diagnostic tests, your doctor will create a personalized treatment plan unique to your recovery needs.
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What are the Survival Rates and Prognosis for Uterine Cancer?
Although there is no screening test for uterine cancer, early detection can help support a successful recovery. Uterine cancer has a very good recovery rate, with an overall 81% five-year survival rate. If you are experiencing any abnormal bleeding or symptoms, don’t delay speaking with your doctor.
If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer or need help understanding your test results or treatment plan, give us a call. SHAREing & CAREing offers free patient navigation services, individual counseling, and support groups to help support you on your journey to recovery. Take care of your personal health and that of your family with our support today!
- Key Statistics for Endometrial Cancer, Cancer.org
- About Cancer of the Uterus, New York State Department of Health
- Stages of Uterine (Endometrial) Cancer, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
- Endometrial Cancer, American Cancer Society