Uterine or endometrial cancer is commonly signified with vaginal bleeding. The treatment of the symptoms of uterine cancer depends on the stage of the ailment and the health of the patient. Uterine cancer affects the womb or the uterus which is pear shaped. It is also known as cancer of the endometrium.
The uterus is located between the rectum and the urinary bladder. It is hollow and fosters growth of the fetus during pregnancy.
Anatomy of the Uterus
The entrance to the uterus is the cervix which is narrow in appearance, while the upper part which is dome shaped is known as the fundus. This is the point of origin of the fallopian tubes which are connected to ovaries on either side.
The wall of the uterus has two layers of tissue. The outer lining is muscular and known as myometrium, whereas the inner lining is the endometrium.
This part is thickened routinely every month to prepare for pregnancy. If the woman does not get pregnant, the lining of the endometrium is shed and menstruation occurs.
The uterus often has benign growths known as fibroids, occurring in peri-menopausal women who are in their ‘40s. Usually, fibroids disappear by themselves, but if they lead to bleeding or vaginal discharge, they may be laparoscopically removed. Another benign uterine disease is endometriosis.
In endometrial hyperplasia, a condition appearing in women aged 40 and above, the cells in the lining of the uterus multiply. This is characterized with heavy bleeding, during menstruation, in between periods as well as following menopause.
Hyperplasia makes the uterus susceptible to cancer, although the dangers may be reduced through hormone induced treatment or surgical elimination of the uterus or hysterectomy, followed by check ups, scans, monitoring and tests.
The symptoms of uterine cancer are evident in older women and may be benign or malign. In the malignant form, the tumor is life threatening and characterized with uncontrolled cell division. If the tumor escapes the uterus and travels to the blood stream or lymphatic system, it can spread to the other regions like bones, lungs and liver through a process known as metastasis.
The types of uterine cancer depend on the region in which they occur, the most common variety being cancer of the endometrium.
Diagnosis of Symptoms of Uterine Cancer
If a woman experiences any of the symptoms which are associated with uterine cancer, the physician may perform physical examination, ultra sonography, Pap smear and a biopsy of the tissues of the uterus.
In the Pap test, the cells from the cervical area and upper vagina are collected and checked for abnormality.
Uterine cancer symptoms may also be detected by a pelvic examination of the rectum, urinary bladder, vagina and uterus to detect the presence of lumps or any kind of changes.
With the help of a transvaginal ultrasound, an ultrasound sample is taken of the lining of the endometrium. If it is too thick, a biopsy is required by taking a sample tissue from the lining of the uterus. The tissue is further examined for cancer cells or other conditions.
Some common treatment options for women suffering from the symptoms of uterine cancer comprise radiation therapy, hormone therapy and surgery. Usually, women choose hysterectomy or removal of the uterus, along with the fallopian tubes and ovary. The lymph nodes near the tumor are removed as well.
Radiation therapy comprises the transmission of high energy rays which kill the malignant cancer cells. Radiation only works on the affected region. External radiation therapy is performed on an outpatient basis for 5 or 6 days a week for a few weeks. Internal radiation is an inpatient therapy in which small tubes containing a radioactive substance are introduced in the vagina for some days.
Hormone therapy prevents the cancerous cells from obtaining the hormones required for growth. It is also known as systemic therapy as it affects the cancer cells that are present throughout the body. Here, the woman is given a pill containing progesterone when radiation therapy or surgery is not resorted to.
The prognosis and treatment of uterine cancer depends to a large extent on the health status and age of the patient, stage of the cancer as well as its growth rate. If patients ignore the symptoms of uterine cancer like vaginal bleeding, it may lead to poor prognosis and delayed presentation. To ensure early diagnosis and cure, it is important to create awareness regarding any unusual bleeding or discharge.