What is Uterine Cancer?
Uterine cancer is a rare disease that originates in the Uterine glands. The Uterine glands are located on top of the kidneys and consist of two parts that function separately: the outer layer and the inner area.
Uterine tumors can increase hormone production. Uterine tumors that do not produce hormones are called nonfunctioning.
Symptoms of Uterine Cancer
Uterine cancer usually occurs after menopause. But uterine cancer may also occur around the time that menopause begins. Abnormal vaginal bleeding is the most common symptom of uterine cancer. Bleeding may start as a watery, blood-streaked flow that gradually contains more blood. Women should not assume that abnormal vaginal bleeding is part of menopause.
A woman should see her doctor if she has any of the following symptoms:
These symptoms can be caused by cancer or other less serious conditions. Most often they are not cancer, but only a doctor can tell for sure.
Diagnosis of Uterine Cancer
If a woman has symptoms that suggest uterine cancer, her doctor may check general signs of health and may order blood and urine tests. The doctor also may perform one or more of the exams or tests described on the next pages.
Pelvic exam -- A woman has a pelvic exam to check the vagina, uterus, bladder, and rectum. The doctor feels these organs for any lumps or changes in their shape or size. To see the upper part of the vagina and the cervix, the doctor inserts an instrument called a speculum into the vagina.
Pap test -- The doctor collects cells from the cervix and upper vagina. A medical laboratory checks for abnormal cells. Although the Pap test can detect cancer of the cervix, cells from inside the uterus usually do not show up on a Pap test. This is why the doctor collects samples of cells from inside the uterus in a procedure called a biopsy.
Transvaginal ultrasound -- The doctor inserts an instrument into the vagina. The instrument aims high-frequency sound waves at the uterus. The pattern of the echoes they produce creates a picture. If the endometrium looks too thick, the doctor can do a biopsy.
Biopsy -- The doctor removes a sample of tissue from the uterine lining. This usually can be done in the doctor's office. In some cases, however, a woman may need to have a dilation and curettage (D&C). A D&C is usually done as same-day surgery with anesthesia in a hospital. A pathologist examines the tissue to check for cancer cells, hyperplasia, and other conditions. For a short time after the biopsy, some women have cramps and vaginal bleeding.
A woman who needs a biopsy may want to ask the doctor the following questions:
Treatment options for Uterine Cancer
Women with uterine cancer have many treatment options. The most common treatment for uterine cancer is surgery. Other options include radiation therapy and hormonal therapy. Some patients receive a combination of therapies.
Most women with uterine cancer have surgery to remove the uterus. The doctor also removes both fallopian tubes and both ovaries. The doctor may also remove the lymph nodes near the tumor to see if they contain cancer. If cancer cells have reached the lymph nodes, it may mean that the disease has spread to other parts of the body. If cancer cells have not spread beyond the endometrium, the woman may not need to have any other treatment. The length of the hospital stay may vary from several days to a week.
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