Definition of endometrial cancer: Cancer that forms in the tissue lining the uterus (the small, hollow, pear-shaped organ in a woman's pelvis in which a fetus develops). Most endometrial cancers are adenocarcinomas (cancers that begin in cells that make and release mucus and other fluids). Read more.
Endometrial cancer (Uterine Cancer) is often detected at an early stage because it frequently produces vaginal bleeding between menstrual periods or after menopause. If discovered early, this slow-growing cancer is likely to be confined to the uterus. Removing the uterus surgically (Hysterectomy) successfully eliminates Endometrial cancer if detected and carried out in the initial stages.
The following risk factors may increase the risk of endometrial cancer:
Estrogen is a hormone made by the body. It helps the body develop and maintain female sex characteristics. Estrogen can affect the growth of some cancers, includingendometrial cancer. A woman's risk of developing endometrial cancer is increased by being exposed to estrogen in the following ways:
- Estrogen-only hormone replacement therapy: Estrogen may be given to replace the estrogen no longer produced by the ovaries in postmenopausal women or women whose ovaries have been removed. This is called hormone replacement therapy (HRT), or hormone therapy (HT). The use of hormone replacement therapy that contains only estrogen increases the risk of endometrial cancer. For this reason, estrogen therapy alone is usually prescribed only for women who do not have auterus.
When estrogen is combined with progestin (another hormone), it is called combination estrogen-progestin replacement therapy. For postmenopausal women, taking estrogen in combination with progestin does not increase the risk of endometrial cancer, but it does increase the risk of breast cancer, heart disease, stroke, and blood clots.
- Early menstruation: Beginning to have menstrual periods at an early age increases the number of years the body is exposed to estrogen and increases a woman's risk of endometrial cancer.
- Late menopause: Women who reach menopause at an older age are exposed to estrogen for a longer time and have an increased risk of endometrial cancer.
- Never being pregnant: Because estrogen levels are lower during pregnancy, women who have never been pregnant are exposed to estrogen for a longer time than women who have been pregnant. This increases the risk of endometrial cancer.