The age-standardised incidence rate (ASIR) of uterine cancer is 6.9 per 100 000 women in South Africa, which is higher than the African average of 3.5 per 100 000 women. With this increased prevalence in South Africa, here are a few facts you should know about uterine cancer.
What is uterine cancer?
Uterine cancer is also sometimes called endometrial cancer, affecting the pear-shaped pelvic organ in which foetal development occurs, most commonly by beginning in the layer of cells that line the uterus (the endometrium).
Uterine cancer facts
The majority of women are diagnosed with uterine cancer when they are over the age of 50 and after they have gone through menopause. While the exact cause of uterine cancer is not known, an increase in estrogen levels can increase a woman’s risk of developing uterine cancer. Some factors that could contribute to a woman’s risk of developing this cancer include:
> Ovarian tumours
> Estrogen therapy
> Early-onset menstruation or late menopause
> Polycystic ovarian syndrome
What are the 7 warning signs of uterine cancer?
Unusual vaginal bleeding or spotting
Abnormal vaginal discharge (with or without blood)
Any vaginal bleeding after menopause
Feeling a mass or tumour in the region of your lower abdomen
Pain in the lower abdomen or pelvic area
Losing weight without actively trying
Pain or difficulty urinating
Is uterus cancer fatal?
Estimated survival rates for women diagnosed with uterine cancer have found that the 5-year survival rate is approximately 69% if the cancer has spread locally, and 17% if the cancer is only diagnosed after having already spread into other areas of the body.
How treatable is uterine cancer?
The stage of cancer will delegate the treatment options, although surgery is usually the first treatment option for almost all women with uterine cancer. This will be a total hysterectomy and lymph nodes in the pelvic area and around the aorta could also be removed to be tested to establish whether the cancer has spread.
How is uterine cancer detected?
Usually with a pelvic exam, pap smear test, ultrasound, or biopsy. A CT scan or MRI may also sometimes be done to assist in confirming the diagnosis.
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