Radiation Therapy

Risk Factors and Diagnosis of Endometrial Cancer

Endometrial cancer, also referred to as uterine cancer, is a form of cancer that affects the lining of the uterus.

Risk Factors for Endometrial Cancer

The biggest risk factor for endometrial cancer is a greater amount of estrogen than progesterone in the body. Certain conditions can cause the amount of estrogen in the body to increase while the amount of progesterone in the body remains the same. The excess amount of estrogen causes the lining of the uterus to increase in thickness. The hormonal imbalance that can lead to endometrial cancer is most common in women who are obese, have polycystic ovary syndrome, have never been pregnant, or take estrogen.

Diagnosis of Endometrial Cancer

Women over the age of 50 are most commonly diagnosed with endometrial cancer. Endometrial cancer often causes vaginal bleeding, so it is usually diagnosed in its early stages as women will generally visit a physician if they have vaginal bleeding after menopause. Physicians will generally check for abnormalities during a pelvic exam. During the pelvic exam, a pap test will be taken. An endometrial biopsy must be performed to diagnose endometrial cancer. To perform an endometrial biopsy, the cell sample that is taken during the pap test is placed under a microscope where it will be examined for cancerous cells.

Other tests that may be performed are a hysteroscopy, dilation and curettage, or a transvaginal pelvic ultrasound. During a hysteroscopy, a hysteroscope is used to allow physicians to look inside of the uterus. The hysteroscope is equipped with a camera and a light, and the image produced by the camera is viewable on a video screen. Dilation and curettage is a surgical procedure. It is considered the quickest way to stop bleeding of the uterus. The procedure is normally performed while the patient is under general anesthesia. During the procedure, a curette is used to scrape away the lining of the uterus. Transvaginal ultrasounds use sound waves to show images of the uterus. The images will show the thickness of the uterine lining and allow physicians to determine if there is cancer growing in the muscle of the uterus.

After endometrial cancer has been diagnosed, further tests may be performed to determine the extent of the cancer.