Signs & Symptoms of Uterine Cancer (Cancer of the Uterus): My Mother's Story
What Is Uterine Cancer?
Uterine cancer is cancer of the uterus. It is also known as endometrial cancer, since it usually begins in the lining of the uterus, which is called the endometrium. This type of cancer affects about five to six percent of women between the ages of 55 and 70. Abnormal bleeding after menopause is usually one of the first signs of a problem, but this could also be from an infection or other non-cancerous issues.
My Mother's Story
My mother experienced early warning signs of uterine cancer when she was still going through menopause. It was hard to distinguish whether the vaginal bleeding was abnormal or normal, because her cycles were so sporadic. Eventually, she stopped have periods entirely.
Still, she would start bleeding and spotting. This was a about a two or three year process. When she went to the doctor, they would put her on birth control pills to help stop her periodic bleeding, attributing her problems to the menopausal process.
After she retired, she decided to get back on track with the doctors and find out what could be causing the abnormal bleeding, discharge, loss of bladder control, pain, and more. After a while, her symptoms started to get progressively worse. For three years, her body was trying to tell her something wasn't right.
Dilation, Curettage, and Tests
After seeing a few different doctors and getting referrals, they decided to do a D&C (dilation and curettage), which is a procedure in which they remove tissue from the uterus. They wanted to do a physical first, so they did a few blood tests and an EKG. The EKG showed something was wrong. Now, they wanted to do an angioplasty. She ended up with a stent in her heart, and that put off the D&C.
The Cancer Spreads
My mother had to have a hysterectomy to remove the uterine cancer. After the surgery was over, she had to wait for the pathology reports to see if the cancer had metastasized to other organs. Unfortunately, the cancer had spread into her ovaries and lymph nodes.
The doctor said if she would not have waited so long, starting treatment when the symptoms began years before, the cancer would not have spread. Because her ovaries were now involved, she had to have eight chemotherapy sessions.
Chemotherapy and Radiation Treatments
To my surprise, the side effects of chemotherapy didn't affect her as much as she thought it would. There were a few times when it made her horribly ill and she really did not want to continue, but she was determined to do whatever she could to get rid of the cancer in her body. My mother has lost her hair and bought a wig. In fact, she likes the wig so much, she may just continue to wear it even when her hair grows back.
I will follow up on this and let you know what the outcome is. Right now, everything is at a stand still. She is not in remission, but the cancer is not spreading either. We have to wait until the radiation treatments are done to know what to do next.
Update: My mother passed away a year ago. She did not die of cancer. She had a heart attack.
The Four Stages of Uterine Cancer
There are five stages of uterine cancer. The stages are defined by how far the cancer has spread. Each stage has a different outcome, but the outcomes depend largely on the person.
- Stage 1A: The cancer is only in the endometrium.
- Stage 1B: The cancer has spread into the muscle layer of the uterus.
- Stage 1C: The cancer has spread into the outer half of the muscle layer of uterus.
- Stage 2A: The cancer has spread to the glands, where the cervix and the uterus meet.
- Stage 2B: The cancer has spread into the connective tissue of the cervix.
- Stage 3A: The cancer has either spread to the outer layer of the uterus, or the tissue beyond uterus or the peritoneum.
- Stage 3B: The cancer has spread beyond the uterus, and is into the cervix and vagina.
- Stage 3C: The cancer has spread into the lymph nodes near the uterus.
- Stage 4A: The cancer has spread to the bladder, the bowel wall, or both.
- Stage 4B: The cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
What Kind of Treatments Are Available for Uterine Cancer?
Your doctor may recommend different treatments depending on your age and the stage of the cancer. Your doctor will decide what is appropriate for you.
I have been through radiation, but never chemotherapy, so I can't give you my honest experience with it. Radiation does not hurt or make you nauseous, at least I didn't have any issues in that regard. The amount and strength of radiation depends on how far the cancer has spread, as with any type of cancer. The most used treatments for uterine cancer are listed below.
Treatment Methods for Uterine Cancer
Hysterectomy, either before or after any radiation or chemotherapy
Other Gynecological Cancers
As a woman, you are always going to be at risk for pelvic, vaginal and other gynelogical types of cancer, especially if you are sexually active, smoke, or have family members who have suffered from cancer. It's important that you learn the signs and symptoms of these types of cancers, and schedule regular check-ups with your doctor. No one is immune to cancer, and you may not be able to prevent it no matter how hard you try, but you can be pro-active by learning about your body.
Information on Uterine Cancer (Video)
Endometrial Cancer (Video)
© 2012 Lisa