Understanding endometrial cancer
December 2, 2021
What is endometrial cancer?
Endometrial cancer arises from the lining of the uterus, which doctors refer to as the endometrium. The main symptoms are vaginal bleeding not related to menstruation and pelvic pain.
Endometrial carcinoma is the most common gynaecological cancer in Australia and is increasing in prevalence, and it is estimated that more than 3000 women would have been diagnosed with it in 2021.
Who is at risk?
Some of the risk factors for endometrial cancer are:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Infertility associated with lack of ovulation
- Late menopause
- Postmenopausal medication containing oestrogen without progesterone, or oestrogen-producing tumours.
- Genetic factors including Lynch syndrome and Cowden syndrome. Women with Lynch syndrome have an increased risk of developing endometrial cancer at a young age.
Early detection & treatment
The prognosis is good for women who receive treatment after being diagnosed with early-stage endometrial cancer. However, the outlook is poor if the cancer spreads or returns.
The doctor who treats endometrial cancer is usually a gynaecological oncologist, who will often work in a multidisciplinary team with other health professionals. The primary treatment is surgery, and your doctor will discuss what type of surgery is best for you. Other types of treatment may also be recommended before or after surgery.
If the cancer spreads or returns
A minority of patients will be diagnosed after their cancer has spread or will experience cancer that returns after initial treatment. In these cases, there is a high unmet need for effective treatments. However, recent advances in treatment options have opened options for women with advanced endometrial cancer.
If you or a loved one are concerned about endometrial cancer, it is important that you talk to your doctor or healthcare team.