Womb Cancer (Uterine, Endometrial)

WHO IS AFFECTED?

Womb cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women in the UK. About 8,500 women are diagnosed with womb cancer in the UK each year, with around five out of every 100 cancers diagnosed in women being womb cancers. By far the most common type of cancer of the womb is endometrial cancer. Endometrial means that the cancer starts in the lining of the womb.

WHAT ARE THE RISK FACTORS?

Womb (endometrial) cancer is most often diagnosed in women aged between 60 and 79. Over a 1/3 of uterine cancers in the UK are linked to lifestyle factors. Most endometrial cancers are driven by the female hormone, oestrogen. Overweight or obese women are more likely to develop endometrial cancer than women of a normal weight. Factors related to your menstrual history can increase the risk of womb cancer, such as starting periods early or having a late menopause. Having oestrogen-only Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) or taking Tamoxifen can also increase the risk of womb cancer. Women with diabetes are more likely to develop endometrial cancer.

You are at a slightly increased risk of getting womb cancer if you have had cancer of the colon, rectum or breast in the past. Similarly, once you have had womb cancer, you have a slightly increased risk of developing certain other cancers. Having a baby lowers your risk of womb cancer and having more than one child lowers the risk even further.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?

The most common symptom of womb cancer is:

  • Abnormal bleeding from the vagina – especially in women who have had their menopause and stopped having periods. About 90 out of 100 cases of womb cancer are picked up because of post-menopausal or irregular vaginal bleeding. Irregular bleeding can be vaginal bleeding after the menopause, bleeding that is unusually heavy or happens between periods or vaginal discharge – from pink and watery to dark and foul smelling.

Less common symptoms can include:

  • Pain or discomfort in the lower abdomen
  • Pain during sex
  • Your womb is enlarged and feels swollen although this will be something which your doctor will be able to see

Advanced womb cancer can cause more symptoms, especially if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. These are less common and can include:

  • Loss of appetite and weight
  • Tiredness or weakness
  • Feeling or being sick
  • Constipation
  • Feeling breathless
  • Passing urine more often than usual

If you have any of the symptoms listed above, particularly if

  • They are not normal for you
  • They are persistent
  • There are repeated episodes
  • They do not go away

… be sure to visit your doctor for a check up.

Remember, most women with symptoms like these do not have cancer. Your awareness of your symptoms is the first and most important step – early diagnosis can save lives.

WHAT IS THE TREATMENT?

Surgery is the first and most important treatment for almost all women with womb cancer. For some women, this may be the only treatment they need to cure the cancer. Depending on the type of womb cancer your have, your doctor may recommend radiotherapy, hormone therapy or chemotherapy. Specialists will discuss and put together a treatment plan for you.