Everything you need to know about endometrial cancer

Endometrial cancer forms in the uterus, growing in the cells of the uterine lining in the early stages.

This cancer is also referred to as uterine cancer and is often diagnosed early because it comes with abnormal bleeding, which is enough to scare a woman into visiting her doctor.

Symptoms of endometrial cancer

Common signs of endometrial cancer include:

  • Postmenopausal bleeding
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding or spotting
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge
  • Pelvic pain

If you notice any of the symptoms above, seek medical help immediately.

What causes endometrial cancer?

The actual cause of endometrial cancer is still unknown. The best explanation scientists have, is of the mutation of genes in the endometrium cells. A genetic mutation causes a normal and healthy cell to change. Healthy cells are created and die at a certain rate. However, abnormal cells regenerate in an unexpected way and do not die when they are supposed to.

These cells tend to stick together and form a mass, commonly known as a tumour. These abnormal cells can spread to other parts of the body as well.

How is endometrial cancer diagnosed?

Endometrial cancer can be diagnosed in various ways:

  • Pelvic examination. In this procedure, your doctor will carefully examine the outer area of your vagina, before inserting two fingers of one hand into your vagina and pressing the other hand against your belly at the same time to feel your uterus and ovaries.

Your doctor will also use a special instrument to open your vagina for a better view of your cervix.

  • Trans-vaginal ultrasound. A trans-vaginal ultrasound allows your doctor to look at the texture of the endometrium.

During this procedure, your doctor will insert a device into your vaginal that uses sound waves to create an image of your uterus.

  • Hysteroscopy. The uterine lining is examined using a scope.
  • Endometrial biopsy. A little tissue is removed from your vagina for lab testing. This procedure can be done in your doctor’s office and you probably do not need an anaesthesia.
  • Dilation and curettage. If a biopsy cannot get enough tissue or if there is uncertainty in the result, you will need to undergo a process called dilation and curettage.

Basically, it is a simple surgery in which your doctor scrapes tissue from the lining of your uterus to analyse for cancerous cells.

What are the treatment options?

Treatments for endometrial cancer include:

  • Surgery to remove the whole uterus.
  • Radiation to kill off cancerous cells.
  • Hormone therapy to adjust hormone levels.
  • Supportive care to help with pain and other symptoms so that you can live a longer and more comfortable life.

This article first appeared in hellodoktor.com. It was reviewed by Dr Duyen Le. The Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.