Uterine cancer is the most common kind of cancer of the female reproductive system in developed countries. It is the sixth most common kind of cancer in women worldwide, and the thirteenth most common cause of cancer death. The highest rate of uterine cancer is found in North America, followed by Northern, Central, and Eastern Europe.
When medical evidence is controversial or contradictory, one method of attempting to clear up confusion is by a study called a meta-analysis. A meta-analysis pools all the information from studies on a given subject, puts it all together, and analyses it as if it were one big study. Such a study was reported on in January 2013 in the International Journal of Gynecological Cancer.
Investigators at Anhui Medical University in China looked at 21 research studies that included 12,195 cases of cancer of the uterus and 575 deaths caused by the same cancer. Patients with diabetes had an 81 percent higher risk of cancer of the uterus than healthy, non-diabetic patients. The good news is the diabetic patients with uterine cancer had no higher a risk of death than the cancer of the uterus patients without a diabetes diagnosis.
Several other known factors put women at risk for cancer of their uterus:
1. Using only estrogen to replace hormones after menopause without using progesterone is a risk factor.
2. Women who have had uterine polyps are also at risk.
3. The inability to become pregnant or never having had a pregnancy can put women at high risk.
4. Starting menstrual periods before age 12, having rare periods, or stopping after age 50 are also risk factors.
5. Tamoxifen, a treatment for breast and ovarian cancer, can also put patients at risk for uterine cancer.
6. Obesity puts women at risk for uterine cancer as well as for Type 2 diabetes.
Signs and symptoms of uterine cancer include:
- abnormal bleeding or cramps, including bleeding between periods. Bleeding or white or clear discharge after menopause is also a concern that should be evaluated, or prolonged or heavy menstrual periods after age 40.
- abnormal cramping or pain should be reported.
If cancer of the uterus is suspected, then biopsy or dilatation and curettage can be performed. Treatment depends upon where the cancer is located and far it has spread. Radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and surgery are all weapons against uterine cancer.
The newest development in uterine cancer detection is a test for DNA along with the Papanicolau test. It could be used in the future to detect both uterine and ovarian cancer. Of course, prevention is preferable to detection and treatment, however early.