Endometrial Cancer: Symptoms and Prevention

Posted June 23, 2015 by Stacy Bolzenius

Endometrial Cancer: Symptoms & Prevention

How can you identify the symptoms of endometrial cancer with your patient? This uterine cancer is most commonly found in women older than 50, and can be cured when it is identified early in its growth stages. Knowing the factors that increase a woman’s risk of endometrial cancer and how to prevent them is essential to obstetric care.

It is important to note that women with one or more risk factors for endometrial cancer may never develop endometrial cancer. While it is also worth noting that many women who have endometrial cancer never had any of these risk factors, these factors are worth mentioning as a part of your OBGYN board review preparation. Diet, exercise, age and a family history of colorectal or endometrial cancer are strong factors. The use of an intrauterine device as well as influences on hormones such as birth control or post-menopause estrogen also qualify as risk factors. Other common risk factors include obesity, diabetes, polycystic ovarian syndrome, ovarian tumors and a past diagnosis of breast cancer or endometrial hyperplasia.

The Signs and Symptoms of Endometrial Cancer

Endometrial cancer manifests itself through a variety of signs and symptoms. These signs usually become more commonplace as the cancer develops. One of the most common signs is vaginal bleeding, spotting or an odd discharge. Around 90 percent of those diagnosed with endometrial cancer experience unusual vaginal bleeding, including bleeding between periods or post-menopause.  Some experience a more general change in their period cycles. While this symptom is not necessarily a foolproof indicator of endometrial cancer, it should be brought to a doctor’s attention. Even discharges that do not include blood can be a sign of endometrial cancer. About 10 percent of the discharges experienced by women who develop endometrial cancer do not contain blood.

Risk Factors for Endometrial Cancer

Other common symptoms include pains in the area of the pelvis and/or losing weight without making an effort to do so. It must be noted that these symptoms are most common toward the later stages of endometrial cancer. Those who do not obtain immediate medical assistance run the risk of allowing the disease to progress. As endometrial cancer further develops, the chances of a successful treatment gradually diminish.

Endometrial Cancer Prevention

Your patients can take specific actions to decrease the chances of getting endometrial cancer and should take note of the risk factors described above. These factors all boost a woman’s risk of developing this cancer. While certain factors such as one’s family history cannot be avoided, women are empowered to make lifestyle changes that will decrease their odds of developing this cancer. Start with the basics by recommending that they should avoid smoking, exercise on a regular basis and eat in a health-conscious manner. Women who are overweight are three and a half times more likely to develop endometrial cancer.

Women should understand the risks associated with using estrogen to handle the symptoms of menopause. Estrogen is available in a variety of forms, including creams, skin patches, pills, vaginal rings and shots. Before considering these options for your patient, try to determine if it really is an appropriate course of action, given their history of symptoms. As you might have learned during your OBGYN board review, adding estrogen is oftentimes not worth the risk as it increases the odds of developing endometrial cancer.