Don’t be in the dark about endometrial cancer
We walk for breast cancer, wear bracelets
to "Live Strong," and are reminded to get our
annual colonoscopy, but what do we do for
"Women need more information about endometrial
cancer," says Randolph Deger, MD,
Virtua gynecologic oncologist. "Awareness
is the first key to prevention,
detection and treatment."
Not to be confused with endometriosis,
a condition that involves non-cancerous
growth of endometrial tissue outside the
endometrium (the tissue that lines the uterus),
endometrial cancer develops in the endometrium.
The good news is that when detected early
and treated aggressively, most women
with endometrial cancer have excellent
"The challenge is in the symptoms,"
says Dr. Deger. For pre- or perimenopausal
women, it can be difficult
to distinguish between regular menstrual
events and symptoms. "Symptoms like pelvic
pain and abnormal vaginal bleeding may be
mistaken for normal disruptions in a woman's
menstrual cycle," he says. "Post-menopausal women
may recognize there is a problem sooner."
Types and treatments
There are two different types of endometrial cancer.
Type 1 endometrial cancer is usually localized and
slow-spreading, seen in younger women, and readily
managed by surgery. "After surgery, women may
receive radiation treatment," says Dr. Deger. "It
depends on the individual case."
Type 2 endometrial cancer is more aggressive and
often occurs in post-menopausal women. After surgery
to remove the cancer, usually a hysterectomy,
women with type 2 often continue treatment with a
radiation oncologist, like Deborah Butzbach, MD.
According to Dr. Butzbach, every patient case is
different. "Treatment decisions are made based on
the stage and type of cells we see," she explains.
"Biopsy results, surgery results, ultrasounds, and CT
scans are factored into these decisions, as well as
patient-specific factors, like age, medical history, and
personal outcome goals."
"There are several types of radiation therapies
that may be an option for women with type 2
endometrial cancer," says Dr. Butzbach. "Some also
require chemotherapy or a combination of the two."
Starting the dialogue
While there may be more than one cause, studies
suggest estrogen may play a part in the development
of type 1 endometrial cancer.
"Fat helps the body produce estrogen, so women
who are overweight or obese are at higher risk," says
Dr. Deger. "Choosing estrogen-only oral contraceptives,
and hormone replacement therapies may
increase risk for type 1 endometrial cancer."
Also, there may be a genetic predisposition.
"There's a much higher risk of endometrial and
ovarian cancers for women who have a family
history of colon cancer or a personal history of
breast or ovarian cancers," says Dr. Deger. "Sharing
your complete medical history with your doctor
can help in defining your risk."