Endometrial Cancer Symptoms

Medical Author: Benjamin C. Wedro, MD, FAAEM, FACEP
Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

Endometrial cancer (uterine cancer) is the most common gynecologic cancer that occurs in the United States; and arises from abnormal cells that develop within the inside lining of the uterus. It occurs most often after menopause, but may also be diagnosed before menopause.

The uterus is made up of two major structures, the myometrium (myo=muscle + metrium=womb) and the endometrium, the inside lining of the uterus (endo=inner + metrium=womb) where a fertilized egg implants to form the fetus.

Risk factors for developing endometrial cancer including the following:

  • Endometrial hyperplasia: excess numbers of cells within the endometrium.

  • Age: This cancer is usually found in women older than the age of 50.

  • Excess estrogen: Hormone therapy is one potential cause, as is obesity since estrogen is produced in the fatty tissue of the body.

  • Ethnicity: Caucasian women are at higher risk of endometrial cancer.

  • Tamoxifen (Nolvadex): Nolvadex is one of the medications used to treat breast cancer.

Abnormal vaginal bleeding and pelvic pain are the hallmark symptoms of endometrial cancer and while there are less frightening causes of these symptoms, these symptoms should not be ignored:

  • Any bleeding after menopause is abnormal and should not be ignored. The bleeding may begin as a white or watery discharge that is streaked with blood and then progress a completely bloody discharge.

  • Excess menstrual bleeding (menorrhagia)

  • Irregular periods, more frequent periods or bleeding between periods (metrorrhagia)

  • Lower abdominal pain, pelvic pain, or pain with intercourse are symptoms of uterus irritation and should not be ignored.

Some patients may have anemia (low red blood cell count) because of chronic blood loss from a slow ooze of blood from the uterus. Symptoms of anemia may include:

As with many cancers, weight loss can be the initial symptom.

When these symptoms occur, it is appropriate to seek medical care. While there are many other explanations for abnormal vaginal bleeding and pain, endometrial cancer is curable if diagnosed early.

REFERENCE: American Cancer Society. Detailed Guide: Endometrial Cancer; What is Endometrial Cancer?
<http://www.cancer.org/docroot/cri/content/cri_2_4_1x_what_is_endometrial_cancer.asp?sitearea=&level>


Last Editorial Review: 4/12/2010




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