What is Uterine Cancer?
The most common cancer of a reproductive system of a woman is known as uterine cancer. This cancer starts in cell layers that form the lining of the uterus. This cancer can be detected in its early stage as it causes abnormal vaginal bleeding. The surgical removal of the uterus can cure uterine cancer.
Types of Uterine Cancer
Sarcoma: Sarcoma cancer grows in the supporting tissues of the uterine glands or in the myometrium. This cancer accounts for 2-4% of uterine cancers.
Adenocarcinoma: This cancer is considered as the main type of uterine cancer that grows from the cells in the uterus lining. Endometrial cancer is the other name of this cancer.
Endometrial stromal sarcoma and carcinosarcoma are considered as the rare types of uterine cancer.
Symptoms of Uterine Cancer
- Pink and watery vaginal discharge that changes into dark and foul smelling
- Unusual heavy bleeding in between the periods or otherwise
- Vaginal bleeding after menopause
Some of the less common symptoms are –
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Discomfort or pain in the lower abdomen
Advanced symptoms include –
- Pain in the legs or back
- Loss of weight and appetite
- Passing urine more than usual
- Weakness or tiredness
- A feeling of being sick
Stages of Uterine Cancer
Stage 1: In this stage, cancer is confined to the womb. Stage 1 has been categorized into two types –
- Stage 1A: The cancer has developed in the muscle wall of the womb.
- Stage 1B: The cancer has developed more in the muscle wall of the womb.
Stage 2: The second stage is marked by the spread of the cancer to the cervix.
Stage 3: In the third stage, the cancer has spread to more parts. This stage can be categorized into three types –
- Stage 3A: The cancer has now developed in the ovaries
- Stage 3B: The cancer has now spread to the tissues nearby the womb or in the vagina.
- Stage 3C: The lymph glands are also affected by this cancer.
Stage 4: The fourth stage is marked by the spread of the cancer to other body organ. This stage is further categorized into two types –
- Stage 4A: The bladder or bowel is no affected by the cancer.
- Stage 4B: The cancer has spread to different organs that include brain, lungs, bones or liver.
Diagnosis of Uterine Cancer
A vaginal examination is done when a patient had symptoms caused by the endometrial cancer. A patient may have an enlarged uterus. Some other tests are also required for diagnosing uterine cancer that include –
Hysteroscopy: A thin telescope known as a hysteroscope is used and is passed through the cervix into the uterus. This telescope helps in viewing the lining of the uterus and tissue samples (a biopsy) of abnormal areas can also be taken.
Endometrial Sampling: A thin tube is passed in the uterus for obtaining small samples of the endometrium by using mild suction. This procedure is performed on an out-patient basis. Abnormal cancer cells in the sample are then examined under a microscope.
Ultrasound Scan of the Uterus: This test is considered as a primary test for determining uterine cancer. This painless and safe scan makes use of sound waves for creating images of the structures within the body and also of the organs. Ultrasound scan of the uterus is used frequently in pregnant women. The womb of a woman can be scanned by placing the probe of a scanner on the abdomen. The placement of a small probe is also done within the vagina for scanning the uterus from a specific angle.
Treatment of Uterine Cancer
There are a number of treatment options available for uterine cancer that include –
Radiation Therapy : High-energy radiation beams are used in this therapy for killing the cancer cells. Radiation therapy is also recommended for reducing the risk of recurrence after surgery. Also this therapy is also beneficial after surgery for shrinking the tumor so that can be easily removed. This therapy may involve –
- Radiation given within the body : This involves the placement of a radiation-filled device like a cylinder, small seeds or wires within the vagina for a short duration. This process is known as internal radiation or Brachytherapy.
- Radiation given through a machine outside the body : This process makes use of machine that is placed outside the body. The radiation is then directed at a specific point in the body and this process is known as external beam radiation.
Surgery : Surgery is considered as the most recommended treatment option for uterine cancer. A surgical procedure is performed for removing the uterus (hysterectomy), ovaries and fallopian tubes. Surgery also helps in determining the extent of the cancer that has spread in the other areas around the uterus. The stage of the cancer can also be determined by removing the lymph nodes.
Chemotherapy : Certain types of chemicals are used for killing the cancer cells. One or more chemotherapy drugs may also be combined. The injection of these drugs can be done either through the mouth or into the veins. Women who are suffering from recurrent or advanced stage of uterine cancer that has spread beyond the uterus are treated with the help of chemotherapy. The drugs then enter into the bloodstream that moves in the entire body for destroying the cancer cells.
Hormone Therapy : The hormone levels in the body can get affected by taking certain medications. This therapy is ideal for those who are suffering from advanced uterine cancer that has spread beyond the uterus.