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Uterine Cancer: Signs and symptoms women need to know

Posted at 9:46 AM, Jul 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-14 09:46:17-04

The public is generally familiar with certain types of cancers like breast cancer and melanoma. But there’s much less familiarity with uterine cancer and who it affects.

Dr. Mae Zakhour, a gynecological oncologist from Spectrum Health, helps patients better understand uterine cancer, its symptoms, and who might be at the greatest risk.

There are two main types of cancer of the uterus. Endometrial cancer affects the inner lining of the uterus while uterine sarcoma develops in the muscle and support structures of the uterus.

Uterine cancer is the fourth most common cancer for women in the United States. In 2022, an estimated 66,000 people in the United States will be diagnosed with uterine cancer.

All women who still have their uterus have some risk. The risk goes up if:

  • Are older than 50.
  • Are considered obese.
  • Take estrogen by itself (without progesterone) for hormone replacement during menopause.
  • Have had trouble getting pregnant or have had fewer than five periods in a year before starting menopause.
  • Take tamoxifen, a drug used to prevent and treat certain types of breast cancer.
  • Have close family members who have had uterine, colon, or ovarian cancer. (Source: CDC)

Symptoms may include:

  • Vaginal bleeding between periods before menopause.
  • Vaginal bleeding or spotting post menopause, even a slight amount.
  • Lower abdominal pain or cramping in your pelvis, just below your belly.
  • Thin white or clear vaginal discharge if you’re postmenopausal.
  • Extremely prolonged, heavy, or frequent vaginal bleeding if you’re older than 40. (Source: Cleveland Clinic)

Treatment will depend on the individual patient. Treatment usually starts with surgery and can also include radiation, chemotherapy, or hormone therapy. When uterine cancer is caught in its earliest stage, the 5-year survival rate is close to 95%. (Source: Cancer.Net)

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Medical Moment is sponsored by Spectrum Health.