Mr Rahul Nath is one of London´s leading gynaecologists. In this article Mr Nath give us an overview of uterine cancer, one of the most prevalent cancers among British women. He explains what exactly uterine cancer is, its symptoms and some of the preventative measure's women can take to avoid developing this disease.
What is uterine cancer?
One of the most common types of cancer that occurs in the womb is uterine cancer. Uterine cancer is a cancer of the lining of the womb, or endometrium. This is why it is also known as endometrial cancer.
Over 9000 cases of uterine cancer were diagnosed in the UK in 2014, making it the 4th most common type of cancer amongst British women. It is far more common in women over the age of 65, with 6 in 10 cases occurring in this age group. Women between the ages of 70 and 74 are the most likely to suffer from it.
Since the 1990s, diagnoses of uterine cancer have been on the rise. It is now estimated that 1 in 41 women will suffer from it within their lifetime.
What are the symptoms?
The main symptom of uterine cancer is abnormal vaginal bleeding, especially after menopause. However, there are a number of other conditions that could cause this bleeding, so it is important to see a specialist if you are experiencing this symptom.
What causes uterine cancer?
One of the major causes of uterine cancer is being overweight or obese. The more obese a woman is, the higher the chance of her developing the disease.
A lack of exercise is also a risk factor in developing uterine cancer. Women who are physically active tend to have much lower rates of the disease, and it was found that as many as 4% of cases of it are linked to not partaking in at least 150 minutes of weekly exercise.
Overall, more than one-third of uterine cancer cases are linked to lifestyle factors. For this reason, it is important that women try to follow as healthy a lifestyle as possible, especially as they get older.
Another cause of uterine cancer is the use of tamoxifen to treat breast cancer. Amongst breast cancer survivors between the ages of 55 and 69, it was found that the use of tamoxifen for at least 5 years was connected to a three times higher risk of developing uterine cancer in comparison to survivors who had never used the drug. However, this only appears to affect older women, with tamoxifen use having no discernible impact on uterine cancer rates amongst younger women.
Another major factor of developing uterine cancer is the use of HRT, or hormone replacement therapy. HRT is thought to cause about 1% of uterine cancer cases. It is especially prevalent in women who have used HRT that only contained oestrogen. The risk was seen to drop significantly if women used HRT that combined both oestrogen and progesterone.
Can it be prevented?
There is no sure-fire way to prevent uterine cancer, but there are a number of factors that can decrease the risk of developing the disease.
Oral contraception use is known to greatly lower the chances of developing uterine cancer. If a woman has taken oral contraceptives at any time in her life, it was found that the risk of uterine cancer dropped by between 24-43%. This lower risk continues for about 20 years after a woman stops taking contraception.
Another action that lowers the risk of developing uterine cancer is having children. The more children a woman has, the lower the risk of uterine cancer.
As previously mentioned, leading a healthy lifestyle, with a balanced, nutritious diet, and plenty of exercise can also significantly lower the risk of uterine cancer.