The uterus is a hollow organ in females located in the pelvis, commonly called the womb. The uterus functions to support fetal development until birth. The uterus is shaped like an upside-down pear; the top is the fundus, the middle is the corpus, and bottom is the cervix; the inner layer of the uterus is the endometrium, and the outer layer is muscle (myometrium).
Uterine cancer is the abnormal (malignant) growth of any cells that comprise uterine tissue. The buildup of cancer cells may form a mass (malignant tumor). Non-cancer cells that form a mass are termed benign tumors.
Although the exact causes of uterine cancers are not known, risk factors include women with endometrial overgrowth (hyperplasia), obesity, women who have never had children, menses beginning before age 12, menopause after age 55, estrogen therapy, taking tamoxifen, radiation to the pelvis, family history of uterine cancer, and Lynch syndrome (most commonly seen as a form of inherited colorectal cancer).
Signs and symptoms of uterine
Common signs and symptoms of uterine cancer are
- abnormal vaginal bleeding (most common symptom),
- vaginal discharge,
- pain with urination and/or sex, and
- pelvic pains.
Endometrial Cancer Risk Factors
Several factors influence the risk of developing endometrial cancer, including:
- Things that affect hormone levels, like taking estrogen after menopause, birth control pills, or tamoxifen; the number of menstrual cycles (over a lifetime), pregnancy, obesity, certain ovarian tumors, and polycystic ovarian syndrome
- Use of an intrauterine device
- Diet and exercise
- Family history (having close relatives with endometrial or colorectal cancer)
- Having been diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer in the past
- Having been diagnosed with endometrial hyperplasia in the past
- Treatment with radiation therapy to the pelvis to treat another cancer
Some of these, like pregnancy, birth control pills, and the use of an intrauterine device are linked to a lower risk of endometrial cancer, while many are linked to a higher risk. These factors and how they affect endometrial cancer risk are discussed in more detail below.
Who is affected to uterine cancer?
Womb cancer is the most commonly occurring cancer of the female reproductive system. It's the fourth most common cancer diagnosed in women after breast cancer, lung cancer, and cancer of the colon and rectum.
In the UK, about 8,475 new cases of womb cancer are diagnosed each year. Womb cancer is more common in women who have been through the menopause, and most cases are diagnosed in women aged 40 to 74.
Womb cancer accounts for about 3% of all cancers diagnosed in women.