The uterus or womb, a pear-shaped organ, is located in the pelvis between the bladder and rectum. The top of the uterus is called the fundus, the middle portion is the corpus, and the bottom is called the cervix. The uterus is covered by two layers of cells, the outer lining and the inner lining (endometrium). A cancerous growth in any of these two linings leads to uterine cancer. Out of the two layers, the majority of cancer affects the endometrium.
Types of Uterine Cancer
- Depending on the type of cell, uterine cancer is of the following types:
- Endometrial cancer: This is a common cancer which starts in the endometrium or inner lining of the uterus.
- Uterine sarcoma: This is a rare type which starts in the muscles or other tissues of the uterus
The symptoms of uterine cancer may not be apparent in the early stages. The common symptoms which begin to show gradually are:
- Unusual vaginal bleeding or spotting
- Abnormal vaginal discharge
- Persistent pelvic pain
- Abrupt weight loss
- Pain during urination
- Pain during sexual intercourse
The exact cause of uterine cancer is not known. The possible causes, however, are:
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
- Irregular menstrual cycle
- Ovarian tumour
- Oestrogen therapy
- Family history
Uterine cancer is diagnosed by:
- Pelvic examination: The doctor will perform an examination of the pelvic region to check for signs of cancer.
- Biopsy: The doctor will retrieve a small tissue from the uterus and examine for the presence of cancerous cells.
- Imaging tests: Various imaging tests such as ultrasound, CT scan, and MRI will be performed to gauge the size, location, and stage of the tumour.
- Dilation and curettage (D&C): If the biopsy does not provide accurate results, the doctor will examine the sample along with a hysteroscopy. The doctor will insert a thin tube through the cervix into the uterus to check for cancer.
The treatment strategy for uterine cancer depends on the stage and type of cancer, age, and overall health of the patient. Surgery is usually the mainstay of cancer. This is combined with chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and immunotherapy.
- Surgery: Surgery will be performed to remove a part of the uterus or complete removal depending on the patient's condition.
- Radiation therapy: High-energy X-rays will be used to destroy cancer cells.
- Chemotherapy: High doses of anti-cancer drugs will be administered to destroy cancer cells. In some cases, chemotherapy is combined with radiation therapy to remove cells from the body.
- Targeted therapy: Certain drugs will be administered to target specific protein particles in the cancerous cells. This therapy is considered in the chances of relapse.