Uterus Cancer: How Dangerous is It?

WHAT EXACTLY IS UTERUS CANCER?

Endometrial cancer is the most common type of uterus cancer. It is so termed as the cancerous cells abnormally develop in the endometrium lining. It is also known as the cancer of the uterus or uterine cancer.

UNDERSTANDING CANCER

To understand cancer, we must first know that this ailment begins in the human cells. The cells are the primary unit of life. Cells combine to form tissues. Tissues come together to form organs. Cancers are malignant tumors. Tumors are masses of extra tissues. Tumors are formed when unnecessary extra cells are formed in our body. Actually new cells (the basic unit of our life) are born as per the body requirement and after the old ones die. But the malignant or cancerous cells keep on forming and constitute tumors or growths. They also spread abnormally fast. Tumors can also be non-cancerous or benign.

MALIGNANT UTERUS CANCER CAN BE LIFE-THREATENING

Uterus cancer can spread (metastasize), to the surrounding nearby blood vessels or nerves. And, from one lymph node, uterus cancer can affect other lymph nodes. Even the bones, liver, and lungs can be affected. Doctors give the newly spread tumor the same name as the mother tumor has as their characteristics remain identical.

CAUSES OF UTERUS CANCER

There is still no unanimity among the medical specialists as to the exact causes of uterus cancer or uterine cancer. Nonetheless, there is agreement among them that uterus cancer cannot spread from one person to another. In other words, uterus cancer is not contagious. Mentionably, though uterus cancer generally happens after menopause, yet it can take place as menopause starts.

TYPES OF UTERUS CANCER

There are different types of uterus cancer. You would be surprised to know that cancerous cells of the uterus at times spread to the lungs. This is not lung cancer but uterine cancer that has metastasized (spread). This ‘distant’ ailment is treated as uterus cancer. Another typical form of uterus cancer is uterine sarcoma. It develops in the myometrium (muscle). There is another uterine cancer that starts in the cervix region.

SYMPTOMS OF UTERUS CANCER

The most common symptom of uterus cancer is profuse bleeding from the vagina. Many have the misconception that such abnormal vaginal bleeding is symptom of menopause and do not pay adequate attention to it. This is wrong! Such vaginal bleeding can begin only as a watery flow having just a streak of blood. But slowly more and more blood flows along with it.

IMMEDIATE PRECAUTIONS

Immediately consult a gynecologist the moment you see any or some of the following symptoms: Pain in the pelvic portion; pain while urinating; pain during intercourse and/or abnormal vaginal discharge or bleeding. Of course, these signs can be due to factors other than those related to uterus cancer. Hence, seek expert’s advice without delay.

THE RISK FACTORS

The confusing fact is that many women having uterus cancer risk factors do not develop this ailment. On the other hand, there are umpteen cases of women not having the risk factors contracting uterus cancer. Nevertheless, the risk factors do help in the early diagnosing of uterus cancer. Here is an overview of the risk factors that may aggravate into uterus cancer.

Age factor: First, uterus cancer has been found to take place among women in the 50 plus age group.

Race: White-skinned women get uterus cancer more than, say the African-American women.

Endometrial hyperplasia: Second, many women after crossing 40 years suffer from endometrial hyperplasia. Though it is basically benign (not cancerous), yet it can sometimes develop into cancer. Endometrial hyperplasia happens due to the increase in cells uterus linings. The common signs of endometrial hyperplasia are bleeding in the post-menopause phase, bleeding after successive periods, and menstrual periods that are heavy. Physicians generally recommend progesterone (hormone treatment) or hysterectomy (uterus removal) to check endometrial hyperplasia from degenerating into cancer.

Colon cancer. Women suffering from colon or colorectal cancer that is inherited also may develop uterus cancer. Colon cancer affects the colon in the large intestine or/and the fag end portions of the rectum prior to the anus.

HRT: Third, women undergoing HRT (hormone replacement therapy) also have risk of contracting uterus cancer. HRT controls menopausal symptoms, prevents bone thinning (osteoporosis), and also reduces chances of stroke or heart ailments.

Prolonged use of hormone: Prolonged use of the female hormones estrogen sans progesterone can lead to uterus cancer. It is always advisable to combine the use of both primarily because progesterone acts as a potential uterus shield.

Over-exposure to estrogen: Women entering puberty early or reaching menopause late or those who have not borne any children remain exposed to estrogen for a long period. They too suffer a high risk.

Use of medicines having estrogen: One such commonly used medication is Tamoxifen. It is prescribed as a preventive measure against breast cancer. But long-time use of estrogen can lead to over-exposure to estrogen.

Obesity: The primary reason why obese women develop uterus cancer more than their thinner sisters is simple. Our body manufactures certain percentages of estrogen within the fatty tissues.

Diabetes BP: Since obesity is also linked with diabetes, the diabetic women may also have uterus cancer. Similar is the case with women having high blood pressure (BP).

DIAGNOSIS OF UTERUS CANCER

The ideal diagnosis for uterus cancer can constitute one or a combination of the following tests. They are the biopsy, Transvaginal ultrasound, Pap test, and Pelvic exam.

Biopsy: In biopsy, a tissue sample is removed from the lining of the uterus. This is a simple process and is done in the doctor’s clinic itself. However, in complex situations, the patient may have to undertake the D&C process. This D&C (dilation and curettage) operation is a day-long affair. The tissue is examined by a pathologist for the probable presence of various cancerous conditions like hyperplasia and cells. In the post-biopsy stage, the patient may experience cramps and also have bleeding from the vagina for some time.

For the patient’s knowledge: The patient needs to clarify certain positions with the doctor prior to going in for biopsy. These are about (i) the biopsy type she may have to undertake and the reason(s) why she should go for the test; (ii) The approximate time biopsy would take; (iii) Would she have to be anaesthetized; (iv) Whether biopsy be painful? (v) The risks and after effects of biopsy; (vi) And, if in the event of cancer being detected what the steps she would have to take and from whom she would get the consultations.

Transvaginal ultrasound: In this test, sound waves of high frequency is aimed at the uterus via an instrument that is inserted within the vagina. The sound echo patterns make a picture. And, the doctor can have a clear idea of the actual state by examining this picture. But, transvaginal ultrasound becomes impossible if the endometrium is too thick. Then, the patient may have to go for a biopsy.

Pap test: In Pap test, cells are collected from the upper vagina and cervix portions. Pathological examination of the cells is done to find out if there are any cancerous or abnormal cells. The problem with Pap test is that it fails to identify abnormal cells within the uterus. Hence the doctors usually collect the cells via biopsy. Nonetheless, Pap test can readily detect the cervical cancerous cells.

Pelvic exam: The Pelvic exam checks the rectum, bladder, uterus, and vagina. The presence of any lumps or alterations in their sizes and shapes are clear indications of the likely presence of abnormal tumors or cancerous cells. The doctor checks the cervix and vagina via an instrument. This implement known as speculum is first inserted into the vagina.