The Growing Concern About Uterine Cancer: What’s the Risk?
Over the past 10 or 15 years, uterine cancer cases have steadily increased in the United States. This year alone, an estimated 65,620 women will be diagnosed with this condition. Average age of diagnosis is 60; it is uncommon in women under 45.
The continuing rise of this cancer is partly due to the increase in obesity, a significant risk factor for the condition. While there’s no way to prevent the disease, there are important steps all women can take to reduce their risk.
Types and Symptoms
This cancer presents as two main types: endometrial cancer, which affects the lining of the uterus (the endometrium), and uterine sarcoma, which affects the muscle wall of the uterus. Endometrial cancer is the most common, representing approximately 90% of all occurrences in the United States.
The primary symptom of uterine cancer is abnormal vaginal bleeding, which appears in 85%–90% of cases. Other symptoms include pelvic or back pain and a noticeable mass. These symptoms are slightly more common in uterine sarcoma, occurring in about 10% of cases.
There are many risk factors, especially when it comes to an individual’s behavior and lifestyle. For example, approximately 70% of these cancers are linked to obesity. Maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise is the most important step a woman can take to reduce her risk.
Less controllable factors include:
- Age—Most cases appear in women over 50
- Race—The condition is more common in Caucasian women, however African-American women are two times more likely to die from endometrial cancer
- Genetics—Some women, including those previously diagnosed with a different form of cancer, have a greater genetic predisposition to this cancer than to others
In addition, several risk factors are linked to high estrogen levels. For example, this disease is more common in women who:
- Began menstruating before the age of 12 and/or entered menopause after the age of 55
- Have never given birth
- Have undergone estrogen-only hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
Preventing the Disease
When it comes to reducing your risk of this cancer, adopting a healthy, balanced lifestyle is key. Eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly can be challenging, but they are well worth the effort. If you are struggling with weight loss, consider seeking help from a doctor or nutritionist, who can help you stay on track and achieve your goals.
Maintaining a healthy weight is the most important step a woman can take to reduce her risk of uterine cancer. Learn more from @drebonyhoskins. https://bit.ly/31mKbuN via @MedStarWHC
Increased estrogen levels can also contribute to the development of this cancer. If you are undergoing hormone replacement therapy to treat symptoms of perimenopause, such as hot flashes, it’s advisable to take a combination of estrogen and progesterone.
Finally, if you experience any post-menopausal vaginal bleeding, see your primary care provider or gynecologist as soon as possible. Early detection of precancerous conditions like atypical endometrial hyperplasia could prevent you from developing this cancer down the line.
If you have been diagnosed with uterine cancer, the Washington Cancer Institute is here to help. As part of MedStar Washington Hospital Center, we have the strong, caring staff and resources needed to provide optimum care for our patients.
Our Women’s Oncology Center specializes in treating gynecologic cancers and breast cancers. We have a multidisciplinary team of gynecologic oncologists, radiation oncologists, and medical oncologists, and we offer other critical services, such as social work and palliative care.
No matter your concern, we are happy to work with you.
LISTEN: Dr. Hoskins discusses uterine cancer on the Medical Intel podcast.