Diseases

Uterine cancer (endometrial cancer) – causes, symptoms & treatment

Uterine cancer (endometrial cancer)

In the early stages, uterine cancer or endometrial cancer is usually well treatable. Depending on the patient, different treatment methods are possible. Uterine cancer should not be confused with cervical cancer.

What is uterine cancer?

In medicine, uterine cancer is also referred to as endometrial cancer. The term endometrial carcinoma is derived from the words carcinoma (malignant tumor) and endometrium (uterine lining).As the term endometrial cancer suggests, the cancer of uterine cancer usually develops in cells of the uterine lining. Alternative technical terms for uterine cancer are, for example, the terms corpus carcinoma or uterine carcinoma. Physicians also distinguish between two different types of uterine cancer: the so-called estrogen-dependent carcinoma (type I carcinoma) and estrogen-independent carcinoma (type II carcinoma).

Statistically, endometrial cancer mainly affects women of older age (on average women in the 7th decade of life). Within Germany, uterine cancer is one of the most common cancers affecting women.

Causes

The causes that lead to endometrial cancer have not yet been conclusively clarified. However, it is suspected that the female sex hormone estrogen also affects developing endometrial cancer through its influence on the mucous membrane of the uterus.

In medicine, it is currently assumed that the risk of developing uterine cancer increases approximately with the lifetime span in which the body is confronted with a high concentration of estrogens; This period can increase, for example, by a very late-onset menopause (the time at which a woman has her last menstrual period) or by an early onset of puberty.

The risk of developing estrogen-dependent endometrial cancer may be increased in the presence of various risk factors. These include, for example, diseases such as high blood pressure or lipid metabolism disorders, but also a long intake of hormone preparations that contain only estrogen.

Symptoms, complaints & signs

Diagnosis & course

Early-stage uterine cancer can be diagnosed, for example, by palpation of the cervix or by smears performed by a gynecologist (gynaecologist). Indications of endometrial cancer can also be bleeding that occurs during menopause.

A suspected diagnosis of uterine cancer, for example, can be substantiated by an ultrasound examination. A so-called scraping (a removal of endometrial tissue) can also provide information about existing cancer cells.

The course of endometrial cancer depends, among other things, on the stage of development in which uterine cancer is detected: If endometrial cancer is at an early stage and is limited to the mucous membrane of the uterus, the prognosis is usually very good. In an advanced stage, endometrial cancer can form secondary tumors that affect, for example, the lungs or liver. This can make healing difficult.

Complications

Uterine cancer is treated surgically in almost all cases. During the operation, neighboring organs, as well as anatomical structures, can be damaged. Another complication is nerve damage, which can lead to paralysis and numbness. The bladder may also be temporarily impaired. In addition, there are increased adhesions in the abdominal region.

In the treatment of uterine cancer, complications such as swelling due to lymphatic congestion usually develop. In some cases, serious as well as life-threatening complications occur. These include peritonitis and intestinal obstruction. Furthermore, inflammatory connecting channels often develop between the urethra and bladder as well as between the vagina and the rectum.

It can lead to infections, wound healing disorders and excessive scarring. These are often accompanied by loss of function, pain or . In particular, young patients are often in menopause after surgery. Uterine cancer may be treated with chemotherapy. Other temporary complications such as hair loss, diarrhoea and nausea may occur. It cannot be ruled out that these complaints take a chronic course.

If uterine cancer is diagnosed late or not treated, metastases should be mentioned as a complication. These cause additional discomfort and are no longer treatable in the later course. Cancer of the uterus leads to death if left untreated.

When to go to the doctor?

For prevention, women should always consult a gynecologist for an annual check-up. In these examinations, cancer screening takes place by palpation of the uterus and the removal of a vaginal smear, which enables early detection of uterine cancer. In addition, consultation of a doctor is necessary as soon as irregularities in the abdomen are detected. If there are changes in the menstrual cycle due to absence of menstruation or prolonged bleeding, a doctor should be consulted.

In case of pain in the abdomen, intermenstrual bleeding or discomfort during sexual activities, a doctor’s visit is advisable. If there is a general feeling of illness, there is a reduced performance or a fatigue, the signs should be discussed with a doctor. Repeated blood in the urine, urinary tract complaints or symptoms of inflammation must be medically examined and treated. Severe weight loss, loss of appetite and inner restlessness are indications of existing irregularities that should be discussed with a doctor.

If bleeding occurs again after menopause, this is considered unusual. A visit to the doctor is necessary so that the cause can be determined. In case of altered vaginal discharge, odor formation in the genital area or swelling of the abdomen, it is advisable to consult a doctor. If the general well-being decreases and the need for sleep increases, the observations should be discussed with a doctor.

Treatment & Therapy

The highest chances of recovery from uterine cancer are usually as a result of surgical interventions. In endometrial cancer, a common surgical procedure is the so-called hysterectomy (the removal of the uterus). If the uterine cancer is treated surgically, it is also possible for the surgeon to determine the spread of endometrial cancer.

If an endometrial carcinoma still leaves tumor residues after surgery, these can be treated, among other things, by the use of radiation therapy (electron or X-rays, for example).

In individual cases, it may happen that in the case of endometrial cancer, the entire uterus could be removed, but the uterine cancer had come very close to the vagina; here a postoperative local (localized) radiation is possible.

Radiotherapy can also be performed if endometrial cancer has spread and, for example, lymph nodes of the pelvis are affected. Such irradiation is usually carried out externally; So from the outside. Although radiotherapy for early uterine cancer can also take place as an alternative to surgery, due to the statistically lower chances of recovery, this usually only takes place if surgery is not possible.

Outlook & Forecast

Endometrial carcinomas are among the most curable cancers in women. If they are detected early in the first or second stage, the chances of a complete cure are usually still quite good. This also depends on the type of cervical cancer. Type I has a better prognosis than Type II at any stage.

In the initial stages, an attempt is made to prevent a complete hysterectomy and only remove the tumor. However, this is different in each individual case and depends on the location of the tumor, its spread, the possibilities of surgical removal and the general state of health of the patient. If the patient’s fertility cannot be preserved, there is the option of freezing eggs before treatment – this is mainly offered to young patients without children.

If, on the other hand, endometrial cancer is discovered in the third stage, the prospects of healing are also still quite good, but consequential damage is to be expected. Fertility can be severely impaired by surgical removal and subsequent cancer therapy.

In the fourth and final stage, when the endometrial cancer has already spread, the prognosis worsens immensely. By this stage, the tumor has already spread to adjacent organs such as the bladder and intestines . Since there are many lymph nodes here, further spread is not unlikely.

Prevention

It is hardly possible to actively prevent endometrial cancer. However, since the chances of recovery for uterine cancer in the early stages are usually very good, regular check-ups with the gynecologist (gynecologist) can help to detect and treat endometrial cancer at an early stage. Visits to the doctor for heavy bleeding during menopause can also be useful.

Aftercare

After completion of therapy of uterine cancer, a check-up with the gynecologist is scheduled every three to six months for the first three years. In the fourth and fifth years, a six-monthly inspection is sufficient. The gynecologist conducts a conversation and a gynecological examination.

During the conversation, not only physical complaints are relevant, but also psychological, social and sexual ones. Patients who do not have symptoms usually do not need imaging or special blood tests. Imaging techniques such as ultrasound, MRI or computed tomography are used if symptoms occur in the course of the event.

These include abdominal pain, bleeding, back pain, constipation or urination. These symptoms may indicate a relapse of uterine cancer. They should definitely be taken seriously and discussed with the treating gynecologist, even independently of the recommended check-ups.

Regular participation in the examinations for follow-up care with the gynecologist is necessary in order to be able to detect and treat possible relapses at an early stage. In the event of a recurrence of uterine cancer, various effective therapeutic methods are available depending on the size and location of the tumor.

If a recurrence, a recurrence of endometrial cancer after completion of therapy, is detected at a later date due to insufficient follow-up, the prognosis and chance of recovery may decrease.

What you can do yourself

The cure of uterine cancer requires medical treatment and, in most cases, surgery. In everyday life, therefore, the possibilities for self-help are limited to mental and psychological stabilization. This can be done in various ways, which prove themselves individually.

Supporting self-help groups, for example, can be beneficial. In a protected environment, patients and convalescents exchange ideas here. They share their experiences, give helpful tips and talk about their feelings. This can give the patient hope and new confidence. In mutual exchange, fears can be reduced and open questions can be discussed.

Different relaxation methods have also proven successful. The exercises of methods such as yoga, ,Qi Gong or autogenic training have the goal of mental relaxation and the reduction of stress. Cognitive measures, building positive thoughts and optimism also help during the illness as they strengthen overall well-being.

In addition, a healthy lifestyle and individual leisure activities can build up strength and strengthen the immune system. A healthy and diet supports the organism. In addition, sufficient exercise in fresh air and light sports exercises improve life satisfaction. The application is to be carried out depending on the physical condition. A stable social environment has proven particularly successful.

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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.