Uterine (Endometrial) Cancer
What You Need To Know
Uterine Cancer is a cancer that starts in the inner lining of the uterus, otherwise known as the endometrium. The uterus has two parts, the upper part being the body of the uterus and the lower part being the cervix, which extends to the vagina. Uterine cancer refers to cancer that develops only in the body of the uterus. The term scarcomas is often referred to when discussing uterine cancer. Cancers that specifically start in the muscle layer of the uterus are called sarcomas. Over 45,000 women are diagnosed with uterine cancer, leaving 1 in every 40 women in the United States to develop uterine cancer in her lifetime.
Although there is no known cause for uterine cancer, there are various risk factors associated with the disease. These risks include:
There are various factors that may reduce a woman’s chances of developing uterine cancer. Although uterine cancer is not 100% preventable, the following factors may prevent the disease:
- Use of Birth Control Pills
- Use of IUD
Unfortunately, there is no formal screening test to detect uterine cancer. The best way to detect the disease is to undergo a pelvic exam, pap test, and/or blood exams. Although uterine cancer cannot always be detected by a pap smear, it can detect other female cancers and should be done on an annual basis. The most common symptom of uterine cancer is abnormal vaginal bleeding, spotting or discharge, especially after menopause. 9 out of 10 women with uterine cancer experience some sort of vaginal bleeding or discharge. Other symptoms are pelvic pain, feeling a mass (lump), or experiencing weight loss without trying to lose weight. It is important to report to your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms.
What We Can Do To Help
At St. John Providence, we are committed to treating uterine cancer from start to finish. The first step is to identify, locate, and test the cancer cells. These steps include:
- Endometrial Biopsy: The doctor will retrieve a sample of the uterine tissue by inserting a thin flexible tube into the uterus through the cervix and suction out a small amount of endometrium.
- Hysterectomy: A doctor will insert a tiny telescope into the uterus through the cervix in order to see any suspicious elements.
- Dilation & Curettage (D&C): If a doctor is unable to determine uterine cancer through a biopsy or hysterectomy, D&C is performed. During this outpatient procedure, the uterus is opened and the doctor will use a special instrument to scrape out endometrial tissue. This greater amount of tissue will help determine the possibility of uterine cancer.
- Imaging Tests: Other imaging tests to help identify uterine cancer may include ultrasound, Cystoscopy and proctoscopy, CT scan, MRI, or PET scan
- Testing the Tissue: Once an adequate amount of tissue is retrieved, it will be examined and tested for cancer cells.
To determine how far the cancer has spread, your cancer care team uses a process of analysis known as staging. The stage of your cancer impacts your treatment and the prognosis for recovery. A number of different staging systems can be used to classify tumors.
The TNM staging system assesses tumors in three ways: size of the primary tumor (T), whether it has spread to lymph nodes (N), and whether it has spread (metastasized) to other organs (M). Once the T, N, and M are determined, a number of I, II, III, or IV is assigned, with stage I being early stage and IV being advanced.
In general, the lower the number, the less the cancer has spread. A higher number, such as stage IV, denotes a more serious case. Your doctor will review your test results and tell you the stage of your cancer.
St. John Providence physicians are trained to help uterine cancer patients choose the right treatment option for the most effective results. The two options we provide are surgical treatments and medical therapy treatments. Surgery is the primary treatment method for most gynecological cancers, including uterine cancer. Medical therapy works in conjunction with the surgical treatments and is followed by the surgical procedure.
Medical Therapy Treatment:
As part of our Center for Excellence in Cancer Care, St. John Providence utilizes cutting edge technology and the most innovative surgical procedures to treat cancer. In addition to the traditional surgical procedures noted above, our esteemed physicians also perform the following procedures:
Surgery using the daVinci Robot
Robert Morris, M.D., and Leigh Ann Solomon, M.D. are trained and experienced in using the daVinci® robot to make gynecologic surgery easier and more effective for women. Making tiny, 1-2 centimeter incisions and using specialized techniques along with the daVinci robot, they can perform precise surgeries with less pain, fewer complications and minimal scarring. Patients typically have shorter hospital stays and return to normal activities quicker than with traditional approaches. DaVinci surgeries include:
- Simple and radical hysterectomies
- Hysterectomy (removal of the uterus)
- Lymph node dissections (for cancer staging)
Minimally Invasive Procedures
- Hysteroscopy (used to diagnose and treat infertility and heavy bleeding, or to remove fibroids or polyps)
- Laparascopy (used to diagnose and treat fibroids, tumors, and conditions such as endometriosis, ectopic pregnancy or pelvic inflammatory disease)
The St. John Providence oncology team is here to support you on your road to recovery. Our goal is to help you attain a healthy body, mind, and spirit. Therefore, our treatment goes beyond surgeries and medical therapies. Your follow-up care can also include other services, including:
- The Healing Arts Center
- Support Groups
Treating cancer alone is not the only item on our agenda. At St. John Providence, our patients’ long-term health is our priority as well. Following treatment, our dedicated team will provide ongoing gynecological care to endure your health and well-being. These services may include annual exams and screenings and family planning.
We Have More to Learn
Although we offer the most advanced care for women in an award-winning hospital, our job of curing cancer is not yet done. At St. John Providence, we are proactively researching and experimenting new ways to help prevent, detect, diagnose, and treat cancer. Click Here to learn more about Uterine Cancer Clinical Trials currently underway at St. John Providence.
For more general information about our research efforts, Click Here to read about the clinical trials and research initiatives at our hospitals.