Womb cancer is a common cancer that affects a woman’s reproductive system. Your doctor may also refer to womb cancer as endometrial cancer or uterine cancer. Womb cancer begins in the endometrium- layer of cells that forms the lining of the uterus. The endometrium thickens and grows each month in fertile women to allow the womb to be ready for fertilisation. Once an egg is fertilised, the endometrium will eventually become the placenta which supplies nutrients to the growing foetus from the mother.
The exact cause of womb cancer is not known, however certain factors can increase the risk of developing it.
As with many cancer, the risk increases with age. Many women diagnosed with womb cancer are over the age of 40 with 1% being under the age of 40
Being overweight is 2 to 3 times more likely to develop womb cancer.
The risk of developing womb cancer is closely linked body’s exposure to the female sex hormone oestrogen. This hormone stays in balance by progesterone.
If you have a hormone imbalance, the chances of developing womb cancer increase. After menopause, the body stops producing progesterone and small amounts of oestrogen are still produced which is why many women receive their diagnosis post-menopause.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
Taking HRT can increase the risk of developing womb cancer. If you’re taking it for a long period of time you may have to be closely monitored for signs of womb cancer.
Women who have never been pregnant are at higher risk of developing womb cancer. This is because during pregnancy, oestrogen levels reduce significantly, giving the body a break from the hormone.
This is a drug used for hormonal therapy for breast cancer. It’s believed that the oestrogen can have an effect on the womb, if you’re taking this for more than 2 years, you’ll be closely monitored for any signs of womb cancer.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
This is a condition where cysts grow on ovaries and cause a hormone imbalance.
This is where the lining of the womb becomes thicker. Cells in the extra lining can become abnormal.
If you started your periods at a younger age and had menopause
Certain inherited genes such as hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC) is a syndrome that can increase the risk of colon cancer and some other cancers including womb cancer.
Signs and symptoms
- Irregular bleeding and bleeding after menopause
- Heavier periods than usual
- Watery or blood-stained vaginal discharge
- Pain during sex
Advanced cancer symptoms
- – Pain in the back, legs or pelvis (more advanced stages)
- – Loss of appetite
- – Fatigue
- – Nausea or vomiting
- – Passing urine more often
- – Bowel changes
- – Unexplained weight loss
Some of these symptoms can relate to other conditions, however, if you have any of these symptoms, please don’t hesitate in seeing a doctor.