Endometrial cancer

Endometrial cancer, also called uterine cancer, is the abnormal growth of cells in the lining of the uterus (endometrium). The cause of endometrial cancer is not known; however, exposure over many years to the hormone estrogen without enough of the hormone progestin to balance it (unopposed estrogen) is associated with the development of endometrial cancer.

Long-term unopposed estrogen exposure can be caused by:

  • Beginning menstruation before age 12.
  • Starting menopause later than age 55.
  • Long menstruation span (from first period to menopause).
  • Never having been pregnant or completed a full-term pregnancy.
  • Never having breast-fed.
  • Using estrogen replacement therapy without the addition of the hormone progestin.
  • Obesity. Fat cells produce estrogen. Obese women have many fat cells, which increases the rate of estrogen production.

Symptoms of endometrial cancer include heavy or unusual vaginal bleeding, especially after menopause but also near the time that menopause begins.

Endometrial cancer is usually treated with surgery to remove the uterus (hysterectomy). It may also be treated with radiation therapy, hormone therapy, and chemotherapy.

Last Updated: November 26, 2008

Author: Bets Davis, MFA

Medical Review: Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Kevin Holcomb, MD - Gynecologic Oncology

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