Endometrial Cancer: Often Curable When Caught Early

Postmenopausal women who experience vaginal bleeding should see a doctor promptly. According to the January issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter, vaginal bleeding is a symptom that occurs early in the course of endometrial cancer, when the chance of a complete cure is the greatest. Even one drop of blood is abnormal in postmenopausal women.

The endometrium is the inner lining of the uterus. Endometrial cancer develops when cells divide and grow abnormally, potentially invading other layers of the uterine tissue or even spreading beyond the uterus.

Endometrial cancer, the most common uterine cancer, is most likely to occur between the ages of 50 and 70, although about 25 percent of cancer occurs in women between the ages of 40 and 50. The greatest single risk factor is being 30 pounds or more overweight. Obesity can raise the risk of endometrial cancer three to 10 times.

Awareness of signs and symptoms can be critical. Women should see their doctor for any of these symptoms:

- Vaginal bleeding or spotting after menopause or during the time around menopause.

- A watery pink or white discharge. In postmenopausal women, this may precede bleeding by several weeks or months.

- Heavy menstrual periods or bleeding between periods in premenopausal women.

- Pain in the lower abdomen or pelvic area or pain during sexual intercourse.

While these symptoms don’t necessarily indicate endometrial cancer, evaluation is recommended. The initial diagnosis may include a physical exam, ultrasound imaging, biopsy, or dilation and curettage, where the majority of the cells lining the uterus are removed with a scraping device and examined.

Since most women with endometrial cancer have a slow-growing type, surgery often results in a cure. Radiation or chemotherapy may be considered for more aggressive or advanced cancers. About 80 to 85 percent of women who develop endometrial cancer are cured.

Mayo Clinic Health Letter is an eight-page monthly newsletter of reliable, accurate and practical information on today’s health and medical news. To subscribe, please call 800-333-9037 (toll-free), extension 9771, or visit http://www.HealthLetter.MayoClinic.com.

Source:  Mayo Clinic

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