Uterine cancer – what you need to know

Cancer of the uterus (womb) is a very common female cancer affecting the reproductive organs, yet many women are not aware of the dangers or the symptoms.

Womb cancer is also known as uterine or endometrial cancer and accounts for approximately 3% of all female cancers. Most cases are diagnosed in women aged between 40 and 74, and can occur pre or post menopause.

Symptoms of uterine cancer

Unusual bleeding from the vagina either before or after the menopause can be a sign of uterine cancer. You should consult your doctor if you experience abnormal bleeding in between your regular periods or if you have already been through the menopause. Other signs to look out for include stomach pain or pain during sex. Once the cancer becomes more advanced, you might experience pain in your back, pelvic area or legs, a loss of appetite, tiredness and nausea.

If you are concerned that you may be seeing signs of uterine cancer, ask your doctor for a referral to a specialist for gynaecological cancer screening.

What causes uterine cancer?

It’s not completely understood what causes uterine cancer, but there are things that can make you more likely to develop the disease. Excessive amounts of oestrogen in your body can increase your risk of cancer as can a general hormone imbalance. Hormone imbalances can be caused by a number of factors including diabetes, obesity and HRT (hormone replacement therapy). Uterine cancer has also been linked to long-term use of the breast cancer drug tamoxifen.

In a very small number of cases, a faulty gene may be inherited, which can trigger the disease.

How is uterine cancer treated?

The usual treatment for uterine cancer is to remove the uterus completely via a hysterectomy procedure. This action can cure uterine cancer if it is identified and caught early enough. As a safety measure, a hysterectomy usually also includes the removal of the ovaries and Fallopian tubes.

Following surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy treatments are also usually used. If the cancer is advanced, a cure may not be possible, but treatment can still prolong the life of the sufferer and relieve their symptoms.

Uterine cancer can be a devastating and life-changing condition, but it can be cured if caught early enough. If you have any concerns or are experiencing unusual symptoms, always go to your doctor for advice – or, contact Dr Tania Adib, a specialist gynaecologist who will be able to offer expert advice on your options.