5 Facts about Endometrial Cancer
If you're a woman—especially if you're older than 45—it pays to know a few key facts about endometrial cancer, the most common cancer of the female reproductive organs.
If this year is typical, about 58,000 women in the U.S—most of them postmenopausal and in their 60s—will learn they have endometrial cancer. Here are five top things to know about the disease.
1. It develops in the lining of the uterus—the endometrium
This cancer occurs when cells in the endometrium start growing too rapidly. As a result, the endometrium can thicken in certain places and eventually form a tumor.
2. Age isn't the only thing that raises your risk
Extra pounds also add to your chances of getting the disease. For example, if you're overweight or obese, you're 3½ times more likely to develop endometrial cancer than women at a healthy weight.
You're also more prone to endometrial cancer if you:
• Still have a uterus and use estrogen-only hormone therapy to treat menopause symptoms.
• Have polycystic ovary syndrome.
Related: The ABCDEs of Melanoma
3. Most women have early signs or symptoms
The most common sign—by far—is abnormal vaginal bleeding. About 90% of women with endometrial cancer experience it. If you're premenopausal, this bleeding includes periods that are heavier or longer than usual, bleeding between periods, or spotting. If you're past menopause, any bleeding is abnormal.
Be sure to tell your doctor right away about any abnormal bleeding, especially if you're postmenopausal. Sometimes a thin white or clear vaginal discharge after menopause is also a symptom so watch for this too.
Related: Are You at Risk for Breast Cancer?
4. Most women with endometrial cancer will have a good outcome
Treatment—typically surgery and possibly chemotherapy or radiation therapy—is very effective, especially when the disease is found early. That's why it's crucial go get any abnormal bleeding checked out.
5. You can lower your risk
Do your best to get to, and stay at, a healthy weight. And move more. Research suggests that the more active you are, the lower your chance of getting this cancer. Finally, if you still have a uterus and are considering hormone therapy after menopause, discuss the pros and cons with your doctor. And if you opt to use hormone therapy, be sure that it includes progesterone.
References: American Academy of Family Physicians; American Cancer Society; American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; National Institutes of Health