Cancer of the Uterus
Alternate Names : Uterine Cancer, Endometrial Cancer, Cancer of the Endometrium
Cancer of the uterus occurs in the lining of the uterus, called
the endometrium. It is sometimes called endometrial cancer. Cancer of the
uterus is the most frequent and most curable type of cancer that affects a
woman's reproductive system. Among women, it is the fourth most common cancer
after breast cancer,
lung cancer, and
What is going on in the body?
The cells that line the uterus respond to signals sent by estrogen and
progesterone, 2 hormones made in the ovaries. In the first 2 weeks of a
woman's monthly cycle, estrogen makes these cells divide and grow as the uterus
prepares for pregnancy. During the second 2 weeks, progesterone prepares the
lining of the uterus for an embryo to implant.
If pregnancy does not occur, the levels of both hormones
fall sharply. This causes the lining of the uterus to slough off. This process
is known as menstruation. The monthly menstrual cycle keeps the endometrium from growing too much.
Some women's bodies do not make progesterone. Others make high
levels of estrogen. In both cases, the cells lining the uterus grow
continuously and are not sloughed off regularly. This makes it more likely that
precancerous changes of the endometrium will occur. If a woman is not treated
for this, cancer of the uterus may develop.
Cancer of the uterus is most common in women between the
ages of 50 to 65. But it can also occur in younger women.
What are the causes and risks of the disease?
No one knows exactly what causes cancer of the uterus, but certain factors
increase a woman's risk. For example, some women's bodies make high levels of estrogen
that are not balanced by progesterone. This is called unopposed estrogen.
Cancer of the uterus is also more likely in women who have the following conditions:
obesity, because fat cells can make extra estrogen
a history of infertility
menopause, meaning after age 55
syndrome, a condition in which fluid-filled sacs form on the
estrogen therapy for more than 1 year without taking
progesterone as well
estrogen combined with less than 7 days of progesterone a
A woman may also have a higher risk for this
type of cancer if she has one of the following conditions:
high blood pressure
cancer of the breast, ovaries, or colorectal cancer
few or no children. The more children a woman has delivered, the lower
her risk for uterine cancer.
past use of tamoxifen, a medication used to prevent breast cancer from coming back
a family history of cancer of the uterus