In order for a woman to be diagnosed with uterine cancer the doctor needs to make an accurate diagnosis. First of all, the doctor needs to differentiate this type of cancer from every other possible disease. After that, the cancer type needs to be identified and in the end the spreading of the disease needs to be evaluated. It is not an easy task for doctors to make a proper diagnosis because there are lots of other benign conditions which have similar conditions. Some of these conditions are fibroid tumors, endometrial hyperplasia and even the start of normal menopause.
Stage of uterine cancer
Before deciding on the best possible type of treatment, it is important for the doctor to learn how much tissue the cancer has penetrated. In order to make this task a little bit easier, experts have created a classification system also known as staging in order to determine how far the cancer has spread.
There is not a type of cancer which is not dangerous but endometrial cancer is known to be able to progress from tissue abnormalities to metastatic cancer that has spread to various parts of the body like bladder and bowel for instance. Apart from these body parts, the endometrial cancer is also known to spread to the muscular tissues in the wall of the uterus, the cervix, vagina and nearby lymph nodes. Abdominal cavity and some other distant organs can also get affected. The experts are saying that the cancer uses the lymphatic system in order to move through the body.
In order to see at which stage the uterine cancer is, a certain surgical procedure called hysterectomy is performed. Hysterectomy is performed in situations when uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries need to be removed. In rare cases this surgical procedure is performed in order for the pelvic and paraaotic lymph nodes to be removed as well. During this procedure the grading of the cancer is determined as well. Depending on the stage and grade of the cancer, the doctor will recommend further treatment.
There are 12 stages of uterine cancer. At first stage the cancer is located only in the body of the uterus and in the last stage the cancer has spread to the abdomen, the lymph nodes in the groin and invaded the bladder or bowel.
Methods of treatment
The most commonly used way of treatment for uterine cancer is radiation therapy. According to the experts, this treatment is an option for women with all stages of endometrial cancer. Radiation therapy is used before the surgery and in some cases after it. If the woman is unable to undergo surgery due to some reason, radiation therapy is the best way to destroy the cancer cells. In cases where the cancer has spread to other tissue, chemotherapy is used alongside radiation therapy.
There are two types of radiation therapy in order to treat uterine cancer. In some cases, the doctors need to use both of them. The first type is external radiation therapy and this treatment is usually given in hospitals or clinics. The procedure lasts for a couple of minutes and a woman may receive it five times a week for several weeks.
The second type of radiation therapy is internal radiation therapy. This type is also known as brachytherapy. This procedure consists of a narrow cylinder being placed inside of the vagina and the radioactive substance is loaded into the cylinder. This procedure last for a couple of minutes as well.
Side effects due to radiation therapy are possible but they depend on the type which is being used and how much radiation is given. The most commonly seen side effects are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and urinary problems. Dryness and itching in the vagina are possible as well.
Chemotherapy is another way of treatment for uterine cancer. This treatment uses drugs in order to destroy cancer cells. Chemotherapy is mainly used after surgery in order to prevent recurring of the cancer. Cancers of the higher grade have more chance of recurring. In almost all cases of chemotherapy, it is administrated intravenously and in cycles.
The side effects are possible but they depend on the drugs which are being used in the process.
Hormone therapy is the third possible treatment for uterine cancer. However, hormone therapy is an option only in cases where lab tests have confirmed that a woman has certain receptors in her vagina. Weight gain, swelling and breast tenderness occur as side effects in most cases.
Survival rate of uterine cancer
According to the data, this type of cancer is more common in Caucasian women. However, African American women who are diagnosed with it have twice as much chance to die because of it.
Survival chances depend on the stage of cancer at which it was diagnosed. For instance, the 5-year survival rates are 90% in case of uterine cancer of the first stage while the rates are only 15% if the cancer was diagnosed in the last stage.