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These 5 Facts About Uterine Cancer Could Save Your Life

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Kathleen G. Essel, M.D.

Fellow in Gynecologic Oncology, Stephenson Cancer Center, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center

About 3 percent of women will be diagnosed with uterine cancer. Uterine cancer is the fourth most common type of cancer for U.S. women, affecting nearly 62,000 women.

Here are five things you should know about uterine cancer:

1. Early identification is key

Uterine cancer typically presents with abnormal menstrual cycles or postmenopausal bleeding. Irregular menstrual cycles (vaginal bleeding that gets worse and/or occurs between periods) and vaginal bleeding after menopause are not normal and should be investigated by a gynecologist.

2. Obesity is a strong risk factor

Excess fat tissue converts normal hormones to estrogen, which stimulates the lining of the uterus. Uterine cancer is twice as common in women who are overweight (BMI 25-29.9) and three times as common in women who are obese (BMI >30). Likewise, medications that stimulate estrogen receptors (such as estrogen or tamoxifen) also increase the risk of developing uterine cancer. 

3. Two out of three women are diagnosed at stage 1 of the disease

Most can be cured with surgery alone, although more advanced cancers require additional radiation and chemotherapy. Once uterine cancer has advanced, it can be difficult to cure.

4. Women who use birth control pills are 30 percent less likely to have uterine cancer

The protective effect persists for many years after a woman stops using oral contraceptives.

5. Roughly 2-5% of endometrial cancers are caused by Lynch Syndrome

Which is genetic. This condition increases the risk of uterine cancer up to 70 percent and also increases the risk of colorectal cancer. Women with Lynch Syndrome can be screened for uterine cancer and receive risk-reducing surgery at the completion of child-bearing. Women with Lynch Syndrome should also undergo routine screening for colorectal cancer.

Kathleen G. Essel, M.D., Fellow in Gynecologic Oncology, Stephenson Cancer Center, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, [email protected]

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