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Uterine, endometrial and cervical cancer

Cancer develops when cells in a part of the body begin to grow at an abnormal pace. When this happens in the uterus, it is called uterine cancer. There are different stages of uterine cancer, depending on how long the cancer has been growing. The earlier uterine cancer is detected and treated, the better.

Uterine cancer

Uterine cancer affects the muscle and supporting tissues of the uterus. If you have symptoms of uterine cancer, you are not alone; an estimated 41,200 new cases of cancer of the uterine corpus (body of the uterus) will be diagnosed in the United States during 2006.

At this time, no screening tests or examinations can detect uterine cancer in women without symptoms.

Endometrial cancer

Endometrial cancer is a cancer that develops in the endometrium, the inner lining of the uterus (womb). In the United States, cancer of the endometrium is the most common cancer of the female reproductive organs. If you have symptoms of endometrial cancer, you are not alone; most of the over 40,000 new cases of cancer of the uterus diagnosed during 2005 were endometrial cancer. Since records have been kept, more than 500,000 survivors of endometrial cancer have been documented.

Unfortunately, there are no screening tests for endometrial cancer for women without symptoms who are at average risk. If you are at increased risk due to increasing age or other risk factors, you should see your doctor whenever there is abnormal bleeding.

Cervical cancer

Cancer of the cervix (also known as cervical cancer) begins in the lining of the cervix, when normal cervical cells gradually develop precancerous changes that turn them into cancer cells. If you have symptoms of cervical cancer, you are not alone; the American Cancer Society estimates that in 2006 about 9,710 cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed in the United States.

Cervical cancer can be detected early with regular pap tests. Between 1955 and 1992, the number of deaths from cervical cancer dropped by 74 percent, and that rate continues to decline by 4 percent a year. Preinvasive lesions (precancers) of the cervix are found far more frequently than invasive cancer. Awareness of the signs and symptoms of cervical cancer helps a woman avoid unnecessary delays in diagnosis, and early detection greatly improves the chances of successful treatment.

Symptoms of uterine, endometrial, or cervical cancer

Most cases of uterine, endometrial, or cervical cancer are accompanied by certain symptoms. Uterine, endometrial, and cervical cancers are commonly diagnosed during the evaluation of the following symptoms:

However, these symptoms do not always mean that you have uterine, endometrial, or cervical cancer. It is important for you to be screened regularly for uterine, endometrial, or cervical cancer.

Screening options for uterine, endometrial, or cervical cancer

To determine if your symptoms are caused by uterine, endometrial or cervical cancer, your doctor will take a sample of tissue from your uterus, endometrium or cervix and examine it under a microscope. Your doctor may also perform a hysteroscopy, a cystoscopy or a proctoscopy. During these procedures, a thin, lighted tube is inserted into the uterus, bladder or rectum, enabling your doctor to see and sample any abnormalities.

At the same time, your doctor may do an imaging test of your uterus, endometrium or cervix. This test enables your doctor to "see" your internal organs without surgery to determine whether or not an abnormality could be causing your symptoms:

If you have been diagnosed with endometrial cancer, discuss appropriate treatment options with your doctor.

Talking with your doctor

Questions about uterine, endometrial, and cervical cancer

  1. What type of cancer do I have?
  2. How advanced is it?
  3. Are there other tests I might need to help determine a diagnosis or the stage of the cancer?

Questions about treatment options for uterine, endometrial and cervical cancer

  1. Can my cancer be treated without surgery?
  2. What kind of surgery do I need?
  3. Do we have to remove more than just the uterus?
  4. What about my ovaries? My cervix? What are the risks involved in leaving them in my body?
  5. Will I have to be treated with chemotherapy and/or radiation? What does that mean?

If you're not satisfied with the responses you receive, consider asking for a second opinion. You are an integral part of your healthcare team and you should feel comfortable with your physician and the recommended treatment.

Treatments for uterine, endometrial, or cervical cancer include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormonal therapy and surgery. Your treatment plan may involve a combination of these options. Together with your doctor, you will develop a treatment plan based on:

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