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Uterine cancer affects the uterus, the pear-shaped organ in a woman's pelvis where a baby grows during pregnancy. The lining of the uterus is called the endometrium, and because this is where the cancer often forms, uterine cancer is also commonly referred to as endometrial cancer.
Risk Factors and Symptoms
Uterine cancer typically occurs in older women, after menopause has occurred. Another risk factor for uterine cancer is a condition called hyperplasia, which occurs when there is an increase in cells lining the uterus. This leads to heavy periods, bleeding between periods and even bleeding after menopause.
Other factors in women's reproductive history can also affect their risk for uterine cancer. For example, starting menstrual periods before age 12 or going through menopause after age 55 put women at greater risk. Not giving birth to children also increases uterine cancer risk. Obesity, a family history of certain diseases, being treated with tamoxifen or pelvic radiation and taking estrogen-only hormone therapy can also lead to a higher risk.
The warning signs of uterine cancer are easy to spot. Typically, they involve abnormal vaginal bleeding, especially after menopause, as well as pain in the area and pain during intercourse.
Treatment of Uterine Cancer
A hysterectomy, an operation to remove the uterus and the surrounding tissues, is the most common way to treat uterine cancer. Other organs may also need to be removed along with the uterus, including part of the vagina, the fallopian tubes, the ovaries and any surrounding lymph nodes. Often, this surgery will also require follow-up treatments of radiation therapy, chemotherapy or hormone therapy to kill cancer cells that may have migrated to organs and tissues surrounding the uterus.
SOURCES: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; U.S. National Cancer Institute
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