As I mentioned in my last sharepost, some cancers and their treatments can result in women entering menopause and/or experiencing menopausal symptoms. One of those is uterine cancer.
There are multiple types of uterine cancer, but the most common type starts in the endometrium, which lines the uterus. This type of cancer is called endometrial cancer. According to ProMed Health, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, while the exact cause of this cancer is unknown, increased estrogen levels may be a factor since they help stimulate the buildup of the uterus lining.
Endometrial cancer tends to occur in women who are between 60 and 70 years of age, although it has been known to strike women before the age of 40. According to ProMed Health and The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center websites, there are many factors that can increase a woman’s risk of developing this type of cancer, including:
- Obesity - “Being overweight raises your risk two to four times,” MD Anderson’s website states. “A higher risk of fat tissue increases your level of estrogen.”
- Diet - A diet that’s high in fat can raise a woman’s risk.
- Age - “More than 95% of uterine cancers occur in women 40 and older,” MD Anderson’s website noted.
- Other diseases – These include diabetes, polycystic ovarian syndrome, complex atypical endometria hyperplasia, ovarian diseases such as polycystic ovarian syndrome, colon cancer, breast cancer, gallbladder disease, high blood pressure and polycystic ovarian cancer.
- A history of endometrial polyps or other benign growths in the uterine lining.
- Tamoxifen – This drug, which is used to treat breast cancer, can cause the uterine lining to grow.
- Estrogen replacement therapy without the use of progesterone.
- Menstrual history – You may be at greater risk of you have experienced infrequent periods. Additionally, a woman’s chance of getting this type of cancer increases if started her period before the age of 12 or if she started menopause after the age of 50.
- Personal or family history of uterine, ovarian or colon cancer.
- Never having been pregnant and infertility.
- Pelvic radiation that was used to treat other cancers.
MedlinePlus, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, reported that the symptoms for this type of cancer include unusual vaginal bleeding or discharge, trouble urinating, pelvic pain, and pain during intercourse. ProMed Health also stated that signs of this cancer can include bleeding between normal periods before menopause as well as vaginal bleeding or spotting after menopause. Additionally, women who experience extremely long, heavy or frequent vaginal bleeding after the age of 40 need to talk to their doctor, as should women who have a thin white or clear vaginal discharge after menopause.
So can you prevent endometrial cancer? The Mayo Clinic suggests four steps:
- Exercise. You need to be active for at least 30 minutes most days of the week at the very least, but realize that more exercise is better.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Since obesity is linked to this type of cancer, keeping a healthy weight is important.
- Talk with your medical provider about hormone therapy after menopause. “Unless you’ve undergone a hysterectomy, replacing estrogen alone after menopause may increase your risk of endometrial cancer,” the Mayo Clinic website states. “Taking a combination of estrogen and progestin can reduce the risk. Hormone replacement carries other risks, such as a possible increase in the risk of breast cancer, so weigh the benefits and risks with your doctor.”
- Consider birth control pills. Taking these pills for at least one year may reduce the risk of developing this kind of cancer and may continue for several years after you stop taking oral contraceptives.
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