The ‘Other’ Hormonal Cancer In Women
Breast cancer is something all women are aware of, but uterine cancer can be just as deadly and not so well known.
There are of course several hormonally based cancers, but some are less well talked about than others and uterine cancer is certainly one of those.
What is it?
It’s a cancerous tumour in your uterus, the pear-shaped organ also known as your womb. Most women get it in the lining of the uterus (endometrium), but you can get tumours in the muscles there, too.
The good news is that the incidence rates for uterine cancer are projected to fall by 7% in the UK between 2014 and 2035, to 33 cases per 100,000 females by 2035. 1 in 41 women will be diagnosed with uterine cancer during their lifetime.
These can play a role in how likely you are to have uterine cancer. For example, Lynch syndrome is a genetic disorder that makes you more likely to get certain kinds of cancer, and women with it have a much higher chance of getting uterine cancer.
But having a problem gene doesn’t mean you’ll get it — it just means you and your doctor should watch for signs so you can treat it early if you do.
If you haven’t been through menopause and you have bleeding or spotting — a red, pink, or white discharge — between periods, see your doctor. The same is true if you’ve been through menopause and have these same symptoms any time.
Bleeding can be a sign of uterine cancer, but it’s also a symptom of a few other medical problems as well and it can be normal for some women. Your doctor is the one who can help you by investigating what it might be.
However, as well as bleeding there are some other symptoms to alert your doctor to:
- Pain in your pelvis (the area between your hips)
- Lost weight without trying
- Pain during sex
- A hard time urinating or if it hurts to do so
Prevention is your best bet for treatment so don’t put off seeing your doctor or ignoring symptoms.
How it’s diagnosed
You may have an ultrasound so your doctor can see inside your uterus, and she may send a tiny telescope in through your vagina to get a closer look.
But a biopsy is the best way to know if it’s cancer: Your doctor will take a small amount of tissue from the lining and look for cancer cells under a microscope.
If you are diagnosed one of the things you need to know is whether it has spread and to find out your doctor will start with an ultrasound, MRI or CT scan to see if it’s spread to nearby organs, like your cervix, or to your lymph nodes (tiny glands in your neck, armpits, and groin):
Usually it is recommended that your uterus be taken out and so a hysterectomy is suggested, and your ovaries and fallopian tubes will probably be removed, too. If your cancer has spread, your doctor also may take out nearby lymph nodes.
Follow up treatment can include radiation to kill any cancer cells that may still be there. It may also be an option if surgery isn’t a good idea for you.
Hormone therapy is also suggested but ostrogen can make uterine cancer grow or spread faster so you may be offered drugs such as synthetic progestins, tamoxifen (a weak oestrogen), LHRH agonists, and aromatase inhibitors which block these hormones to slow the tumour’s growth.
These can cause side effects that feel like menopause, including hot flushes, weight gain, or dryness in your vagina.
The role of progesterone in hormonal cancers
Many women are concerned after any cancer diagnosis or risk about just what can be h helpful at this time. The majority of such cancers are related to excess oestrogen which fuels them and so balancing that with bioidentical progesterone can help both reduce the risk and with any side effects relating to treatment.
Any treatment for cancer, including bioidentical hormones, should always be discussed with your doctor or consultant to achieve the optimum balance.