Endometrial cancer, also known as uterine cancer, develops when the cells of the lining of the uterus become abnormal and grow out of control. The endometrium is the lining of the uterus or the womb.
In Australia, endometrial cancer is the most common gynaecological cancer. Endometrial cancer can happen to women at any age, although it’s more common in women who’ve been through menopause. Fortunately, most women are diagnosed at an early stage, when the disease can usually be cured with surgery alone.
The most common symptom of endometrial cancer is abnormal vaginal bleeding, especially after menopause.
What is considered abnormal vaginal bleeding?
If you’re a woman who’s still having periods, abnormal bleeding refers to bleeding between periods or heavy menstrual bleeding.
If you’ve gone through menopause, any vaginal bleeding is considered abnormal, even if it’s just one drop of blood. This is especially true if you’re not undergoing menopausal hormone therapy. These therapies are often prescribed to relieve symptoms like hot flashes and vaginal dryness.
A biopsy from the lining of the uterus is necessary to diagnose endometrial cancer. The procedure is called a hysteroscopy, a procedure using a small camera to look inside the uterus
Determining the stage or spread of endometrial cancer is based on how deep the cancer extends into the wall of the uterus, and whether it has spread to the lymph nodes or other body organs.
Staging for endometrial cancer requires surgery but you will first be asked to have a number of scans ahead of the surgery to make sure there are no obvious signs of spread.
The treatment for endometrial cancer is surgical involving a hysterectomy, that is removal of the uterus including both fallopian tubes and ovaries, and removal of some sentinel lymph nodes or all pelvic lymph nodes. In most cases, this surgery can be carried out laparoscopically, also called keyhole or minimally invasive surgery.
Some women may require additional treatment in the form of pelvic or intravaginal radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy after surgery. This is called adjuvant treatment and in most cases is aimed at reducing the risk of cancer recurrence.
Dr Vivek Arora has been offering a sentinel lymph node biopsy for many years. The procedure involves giving a dye at the start of the surgery to identify the sentinel or the ‘gatekeeper’ lymph node.
Finding a sentinel lymph node doesn’t mean the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes. This procedure is aimed at reducing the risk of leg lymphoedema or permanent leg swelling as a complication of a full lymphadenectomy, also called a lymph node dissection.
Yes, Dr Vivek Arora believes in a multidisciplinary approach for the best possible outcome. He discusses your diagnosis and consults with the Gynaecological Oncology Multidisciplinary Team at the Royal Hospital for Women in Randwick.
We encourage you to ask any questions you may have during your diagnosis and treatment.
You may have questions regarding the stage of the cancer, treatment options, fertility preservation, seeking a second opinion, risks of treatment, involvement in trial therapies, impact on sexual function or where to seek further information.