What is Endometrial Cancer?
Endometrial cancer is a cancer of the lining of the uterus. Cancer starts when cells become abnormal and start growing out of control in this lining. Currently, no test is used to screen for endometrial cancer. Screening tests look for cancer when it is at an early stage and isn’t causing any symptoms. Endometrial cancer is usually diagnosed when being evaluated for a symptom that it’s causing.
Risk factors for endometrial cancer
The risk factors associated with developing endometrial cancer include:
● Being post-menopausal
● Taking tamoxifen to treat breast cancer
● High-fat diet
● Starting menstruation at an early age
● Taking estrogen supplements
● Late age for menopause
● Never giving birth
Side effects of endometrial cancer
The most common symptom of endometrial cancer is abnormal vaginal bleeding. Bleeding can range from light spotting to heavy bleeding. This can include bleeding between menstrual cycles or bleeding after menopause after menstrual cycles have stopped. Other symptoms of endometrial cancer include:
● Pelvic pain
● Unintentional weight loss
● Pelvic mass
Endometrial cancer imaging tests
If you present to your healthcare provider with the symptoms above, they will likely perform tests to help figure out what is going on. One of the first things they may do is a physical exam, and likely a pelvic exam to evaluate for any changes.
Imaging tests such as ultrasound may be ordered. Ultrasound is an effective imaging tool to evaluate the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes. This test can be done in various ways. One way is a transvaginal ultrasound, where the ultrasound wand is placed into the vagina to obtain imaging. A pelvic ultrasound is obtained by the ultrasound wand taking images from the external lower part of the abdomen.
If any areas of abnormality are seen on imaging, a biopsy will be ordered. A biopsy removes tissue from the suspicious area to be tested for cancer cells. There are a few ways that a biopsy can be taken, depending on where the lesion is located in the uterus.
Once a diagnosis of endometrial cancer is obtained, imaging may be done to look at other areas of the body to see if the cancer has spread.
Screening can save lives, so if you are experiencing any abnormal bleeding or symptoms, please see your doctor immediately.
It is important to be aware of the risks and symptoms of endometrial cancer. Many women are unaware of this type of cancer or how to screen for it, so education and awareness are key.
Remember that you are not alone in this fight; many resources are available to help you through every step of your journey.