Endometrial cancer

The most common female reproductive cancer is endometrial cancer - a cancer of the lining of the uterus. The disease has both genetic and environmental risk factors and kills thousands of women a year in the U.S. The cancer appears to be caused, at least in part, by increased estrogen exposure in the uterus, and the environmental risk factors for this cancer tend to revolve around this hormonal balance.

Are you at risk for endometrial cancer?

The cancer starts in the uterus (stage 1), the spreads to the cervix (stage 2), the surrounding pelvic area and/or lymph nodes (stage 3), and then to the abdomen and bladder (stage 4). Hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) is usually pursued during stage 1 to prevent spread of the cancer. According to PubMed Health, surgeons generally go in through the abdomen in order to biopsy surrounding tissue and confirm complete removal and lack of spread. Radiation therapy is often used to ensure the cancer doesn't return, and chemotherapy is used in later stages.

Survival when diagnosed in stage 1 is very good, with more than 90% of patients surviving beyond 5 years. However, 5-year survival for cancer that has spread is less than 25%. Regular pelvic screenings and Pap smears can help diagnose the cancer early! The effects of estrogen therapy on your risk should also be discussed with your doctor, who will likely suggest regular screenings to monitor your cancer risk.

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