Q1: Why does obesity increase the risk for uterine cancer?
A: When you’re obese, you have more fatty tissue in your body. Fatty tissue creates more estrogen. And the more estrogen your uterus is exposed to, the greater your risk is of developing endometrial carcinoma.
Q2: How can I reduce my risk for uterine cancer?
A: You can reduce your risk for uterine cancer by avoiding as many risk factors as possible. For example, eating well and exercising regularly may help you keep your weight at a healthy level. Many other steps lower your risk for endometrial carcinoma. For example, if you use estrogen replacement theory, check with your doctor to be sure you’re combining it with progesterone. If you’re not planning to ever have children, consider using birth control medication to limit your body’s creation of estrogen. Talk with your healthcare team about other steps you can take to lower your risk.
Q3: What screening tests are available for uterine cancer?
A: There is no standard screening test to find uterine cancer. A Pap smear, a test routinely used to find cervical cancer, is not very useful in finding uterine cancer. If you’re at high risk for endometrial carcinoma, talk with your doctor about screening.
Q4: How is a diagnosis of uterine cancer made?
A: The symptoms linked to uterine cancer can also be caused by less serious problems. To find out the cause of any of these symptoms, the doctor asks you about your health history and your family medical history. He or she does a careful physical exam. This includes a pelvic exam and Pap test. This test does not show if a woman has uterine cancer, because it checks cells in the cervix, not the uterus. But it can help make sure you don’t have another problem with similar symptoms.
The doctor may order a biopsy to help make a diagnosis. During a biopsy, the doctor removes some tissue from the inner uterine lining, called the endometrium. This can usually be done in the doctor’s office with no or little anesthetic. Another type of biopsy isdilation and curettage (D&C). This involves scraping tissue from different parts of the lining of the uterus. A D&C is usually done in a surgery center or hospital.
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Q5: If I have uterine cancer, will I need a hysterectomy?
A: Surgery to take out the uterus, called a hysterectomy, is the main way to treat most types of uterine cancer. Sometimes, a hysterectomy can get rid of all the cancer in your body, providing a cure. This is especially true for early stages of endometrial carcinoma. While removing your uterus, yoursurgeon may also take out your fallopian tubes and ovaries to stop the production of estrogen. This helps slow or stop the spread of uterine cancer. You may have other treatments before or after surgery. These include radiation,hormone therapy, or chemotherapy.
Q6: What is staging of uterine cancer?
A: Staging is a way to describe how large the cancer is and how far the cancer has spread. Finding the stage of uterine cancer helps your doctor determine the best treatment for you. For uterine cancer, these are the 4 stages.
• StageI. Stage I uterine cancer is only in the uterus. It is not in the cervix.
• Stage II. Stage II cancer means that there are also cancer cells in the cervix.
• Stage III. Stage III cancer has spread outside of the uterus, but it is still in the pelvic area.
• Stage IV. This means that the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, such as lungs, liver, bone, or brain.
Q7: What are the treatments for uterine cancer?
A: Treatments for uterine cancer include surgery, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, and chemotherapy.
Surgery is the most common treatment for women with uterine cancer. Your doctor will likely take out your uterus and will usually take out the fallopian tubes, ovaries, and nearby lymph nodes. How much is removed depends on the size of the tumor, what the cancer cells look like, and how the cancer has spread. Radiation is another way to treat uterine cancer. For this treatment, X-rays kill cancer cells. If the woman has early-stage uterine cancer, radiation may be used instead of surgery. It is more often used after surgery to kill any cancer cells that may have been left behind.
Hormone therapy is when drugs are used to keep cells from getting the hormones they need to grow. The drugs are given by mouth or by injection. They travel through the body in the blood. The drugs control the cancer cells that are both inside and outside the uterus. Hormone therapy may be used to be sure that cancer cells don’t spread. It may also help to ease symptoms when cancer is advanced.
Chemotherapy is the use of anticancer drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be used to be sure all the cancer cells have been killed. Or when cancer is advanced, chemotherapy can help ease symptoms. The drugs may be given by mouth or by injection. Either way, the drugs travel throughout the body in the bloodstream.
Q8: Should everyone get a second opinion for a diagnosis of uterine cancer?
A: Many people with cancer get a second opinion from another doctor. There are many reasons to get a second opinion. Here are some of those reasons.
• You don’t feel comfortable with the treatment decision.
• The type of cancer is rare, such as with uterine sarcoma.
• There are different ways to treat the cancer.
• You aren’t able to see a cancer expert.
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