Uterine cancer

November 12, 2012

Uterine cancer

Uterine cancer is a cancer which generally affects more women over the age of 50 then those who are younger. Uterine cancer is also one of the most common cancers affecting women. It may also be referred to as cancer of the womb or lining of the womb or endometrial cancer – where endometrial refers to the lining of the uterus called the endometrium. It appears that uterine cancer often starts in this endometrium lining.

Receiving a diagnosis of cancer can cause much distress and shock, it is important to make use of any support services in your area, there are specialist medical practitioners who will help you to understand your uterine cancer diagnosis – what it is, how it is treated etc. Your medical practitioner will be able to explain and discuss the best course of treatment for you and answer any questions you may have.

The uterus, or womb, is located in the lower abdomen, it is held in place by muscle and joined to the vagina by the cervix. During the menstrual cycle in women of child-bearing age hormones are released which cause menstruation and ovulation. During ovulation an egg is released from one of two ovaries and travels down the fallopian tube. If the egg is not fertilized it passes from the body as part of the woman’s period. If however the egg is fertilized it will implant into the uterus lining where it will remain and grow into a baby. The endometrium layer of the uterus is made up of blood vessels, glands and surface epithelium (or skin-like cells) – each month this endometrium layer thickens in preparation for pregnancy – when pregnancy does not occur this layer will shed and flow out from the vagina as the monthly menstruation.

During menopause a woman’s body gradually stops releasing the hormones which cause ovulation and periods, this also means she is no longer able to reproduce.

There are different types of uterine cancer. The cancer may have developed in the endometrium layer or in the muscle layers of the uterus. Therefore knowing which one you have is important as that knowledge will help you and your medical practitioner to make the correct decision about treatment.

Most women who are diagnosed with uterine cancer are diagnosed with adenocarcinoma – this cancer begins in the glandular tissue.

The less common types of uterine cancer include papillary serous carcinoma, adenosquamous carcinoma or clear cell or uterine sarcoma – this cancer is more rare and the treatment options may well differ – another reason why it is important to be well informed about your options after your diagnosis of uterine cancer.

Whilst the exact cause of uterine cancer remains a mystery doctors have been able to recognize certain risk factors which may include – age – post menopausal women appear to be more at risk; obesity; infertility or never having had children; family history; diabetes sufferers or those with high blood pressure; certain medications – taking oestrogen hormone replacement without progesterone for example or some of the medications given to treat breast cancer. As always if you are concerned you should discuss your options with your medical practitioner. Another condition which seems to be a risk factor in contracting uterine cancer is endometrial hyperplasia. This is a condition which can cause irregular heavy bleeding and periods and/or a watery discharge as a result of the development of a thicker than normal uterine lining – since this condition is known to be a risk factor in the development of uterine cancer the medical practitioner may recommend a hysterectomy, particularly in women who are post-menopause or who have finished having children.

It is important to remember that most women who have some or all of the known risk factors will NOT necessarily go on to develop uterine cancer – just as many women who do develop the condition may not have any of the risk factors. It is also important to note that uterine cancer is not caused by sexual activity and cannot be passed on in this way.

Finally it should be stated that any unusual spotting or bleeding should be reported to and investigated by your medical practitioner.

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