According to the National Cancer Institute's 2020 Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, the incidence rate, or the number of new cases of cancer, in the U.S. was stable among men and increased slightly in women between 2012 to 2016. During the same time period, the number of women diagnosed with endometrial cancer rose by 1.3 %, and endometrial cancer was the fourth most common cancer among women in the U.S.
Endometrial cancer is a cancer that begins in the lining (endometrium) of the uterus and is the most common type of uterine cancer. Endometrial carcinoma, a type of endometrial cancer, accounts for over 90 percent of uterine cancers, and it is therefore also more broadly known as uterine cancer or endometrial cancer.
To raise the chance of finding endometrial cancer early, it's important that every woman know the risk factors and common signs and symptoms.
Know the risk factors
Some common risk factors for endometrial cancer are:
- Obesity, which is one of the primary risk factors
- Regularly eating foods that are high in fat
- Little exercise
- Being over age 45 (the average age at diagnosis is 60 years)
Other risk factors for endometrial cancer include:
- Having a mother or sister with a history of endometrial cancer
- Past use of hormone replacement therapy with estrogen alone
- Having previously had breast or ovarian cancer
- Use of certain medicines used to treat breast cancer
- Past pelvic radiation therapy (radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high energy to destroy cancer)
- Type 2 diabetes
- Endometrial hyperplasia (the thickening of the lining of the uterus)
- Never having been pregnant
Know the signs and symptoms
Abnormal bleeding from the vagina is the most common symptom of endometrial cancer, occurring in approximately nine out of 10 women with endometrial cancer. Abnormal bleeding can include changes to a woman's periods, bleeding between periods or bleeding after menopause.
Other common symptoms may include unusual vaginal discharge or pelvic pain.
If you are having any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor right away. Women who are diagnosed early may have more treatment options.
What to do if you've been diagnosed
If you've been diagnosed with endometrial cancer, it's important to take an active role in your healthcare:
- Work with your oncologist (doctor who treats cancer) and cancer care team to decide on the right treatment plan for you:
- The first treatment for endometrial cancer may include a hysterectomy (surgery to remove the uterus)
- After surgery, treatment may include medicines and radiation therapy
- Ask your cancer care team all your questions, including what you should expect from your treatment
- Take your medicine exactly as your doctor tells you
- Build a support network that may include healthcare providers, family and friends
- Look for local cancer advocacy organizations – they often offer information, support groups, rides to the doctor and other services to help you
Other tips your healthcare provider may recommend to help you during treatment include:
- Drink plenty of water
- Follow a healthy diet
- Stay active
- Manage your stress
- Rest when you need to
Contact your healthcare team right away if you have side effects or start to feel anything new or different during treatment.
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