Reproductive History

How Reproductive Health History Reveals Risk Factors For Uterine Cancer

It is estimated that just over 47,000 cases of uterine cancer are diagnosed each year. In addition, approximately 8,010 women will die from this cancer. The American Cancer Society reports that endometrial cancer is the most common type of cancer found in women's reproductive systems. Furthermore, the chances of a woman developing endometrial cancer at some point in her life are about one in 38. There are several factors that put women at higher risk than others for developing this disease, which is why it is important to work with the gynecologist to discuss their reproductive history.

In addition to the reproductive history, a gynecologist will gather further information to determine a woman's risk for developing uterine cancer. This information is generally obtained during the regular health history and by examination.

Risk Factors for Uterine Cancer

  • Women who have had problems with endometriosis are more likely to develop uterine cancer. The abnormal overgrowth of the endometrium is not cancerous, but there's a possibility it could become cancerous.
  • Obesity: Women who are overweight are more likely to develop this cancer, along with other diseases.
  • History of using estrogen without progestin for hormone replacement therapy.
  • Using tamoxifen for treatment of breast cancer.
  • History of radiation therapy to the pelvic region.
  • Family history of this cancer, especially in the mother, sister, or daughter of the patient. In addition, women who have a family history of certain types of colorectal cancer have a higher risk as well.

Reproductive History

During the visit with the gynecologist, a thorough reproductive history will be taken. This is because there are many things in a reproductive history that can put a woman at an increased risk for developing cancer of the uterus. These risk factors are the following:

  • A woman who has never had children.
  • Early periods before age 12: This applies to all women who had their first menses prior to age 12, regardless of whether the periods were regular or irregular.
  • Late menopause after age 55: Women who continued with menses until after the age of 55 are included in this group, even if the women were in pre-menopause and still menstruating.

As a gynecologist is taking the reproductive history for his patient will expand further beyond the information listed above. For instance, women who have never had children may have had pregnancies. This information, along with the outcome of the pregnancies will be discussed during the reproductive health history. Spontaneous or mechanical abortions and stillbirths are all included when discussing pregnancies.

In addition to the age of a woman's first period and the age at menopause, information about her period will be discussed. Included in this discussion will be things like whether or not the periods were considered regular, how long they lasted each month, and how heavy or light the flow was. The gynecologist will also need to know whether or not the woman ever had contraception. This not only includes oral contraceptives, but IUDs, diaphragms, and other methods of contraception. For those women who used oral contraception, the physician will need to know if there were any adverse effects from the medications, such as weight gain or other side effects.

The last bit of information included in the history will be any problems with reproduction or other reproductive issues. In addition, women will need to divulge if they have had any issues with different cancers or other chronic health problems.

Being honest and divulging all information to the gynecologist during the reproductive health history will ensure the physician determines a woman's risk for developing endometrial cancer in the future.