Diagnosing and Treating Uterine Cancer
Being aware of the signs and symptoms of uterine cancer can help alert you and your health care provider that perhaps something is not quite right with your body. Diagnosing uterine cancer can sometimes be difficult because there is no one test for the disease. Instead, a series of exams must be done in order to diagnose the illness.
Every woman aged 21 or older should receive an annual pelvic exam. During this exam, your health care provider will feel for growths or abnormalities in your pelvis, ovaries, uterus, cervix, and rectum. This can help to determine if there are any tumors growing on your uterus. It is also a good idea to get a PAP smear done at the same time as this can help detect cervical cancer.
If abnormalities are found in your pelvic exam, a transvaginal ultrasound will be performed. During this test, your health care provider will insert an instrument in your vagina. This probe bounces sound waves at your uterus, creating an image, which is then relayed back to a television monitor. This will allow your health care provider to look at your uterus and examine your endometrium for any cancerous growth.
In order to diagnose uterine cancer, a biopsy must be performed. During the biopsy, your health care provider will remove a small piece of tissue from your uterus for testing. This can usually be done in office, though sometimes it requires anesthesia, which means a visit to the hospital.
Uterine Cancer Treatment
If you are diagnosed with uterine cancer, you will probably be advised to seek immediate treatment. This is to prevent the further spread of cancerous cells throughout your body. There are a number of different treatments used with uterine cancer. Often, women will use a combination of 2 therapies in order to receive the most effective treatment.
Surgery is generally performed in women with uterine cancer but who are otherwise healthy. By removing cancerous tissues first, radiation therapy and chemotherapy are often more successful. Surgery will remove all visible cancerous cells. Generally, your uterus and cervix will be removed in a process called a hysterectomy. It is also possible that your fallopian tubes and ovaries will be removed, though your surgeon will attempt to preserve your fertility. Surgery is generally the most effective treatment though it does have its side effects. If your ovaries are removed, you will enter into menopause, which is often accompanied by severe menopause symptoms.
Radiation therapy uses energy rays to kill cancerous cells in your body and it is often used in combination with surgical treatment. External radiation uses a machine, which sends radioactive rays over affected areas of the body. Internal radiation involves inserting tubes containing radioactive materials inside the vagina. Side effects include: fatigue, loss of appetite, dryness, itching in the vagina, and diarrhea.
Hormone therapy is sometimes used to slow the growth of cancer cells. It is an excellent choice for those who cannot undergo surgery for health reasons. In order to grow, cancer cells feed off of hormones that your body produces. Progesterone supplements counteract these hormones, preventing the cancer from spreading. Side effects include: fatigue, retaining fluids, changes in menstrual periods, and appetite and weight changes.
Chemotherapy is also used to kill cancer cells in uterine cancer patients. It is especially useful for advanced cases as the medication enters the blood stream and treats all areas of the body. Typically, a combination of medicines is used, given either intravenously or orally. Side effects include: nausea, hair loss, loss of appetite, and mouth or vaginal sores.
The survival rate for uterine cancer generally depends upon the individual health of the patient. However, average rates can be determined. The prognosis for endometrial cancer is typically good. If caught early, the five year survival rate is between 75% and 95%. The prognosis for uterine sarcomas is less promising. If caught early, there is a five-year survival rate of between 20% and 50%. In its most advanced stages, the five-year survival rate is only 10%.