Uterine cancer

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Updated: 4/11/2007 2:50 pm
The uterus or womb is a hollow, pear-shaped organ located in a woman's abdomen, between the bladder and rectum. Because most uterine cancers occur in the inner layer known as the endometrium (en-doe-MEE-tree-um), cancer of the uterus is often called endometrial cancer. Symptoms of uterine cancer include bleeding between periods, excessive menstrual bleeding, and abnormal bleeding after menopause. Less common signs are pelvic cramping, abdominal pain, and bloating. Cancer of the uterus is rare before menopause; the average age of diagnosis is 57. Risk factors for uterine cancer include diabetes, being overweight, early menstruation or late menopause, lack of ovulation, and never being pregnant. Estrogen (ESS-troe-gin) replacement therapy that uses estrogen alone is also linked to increased risk. However, most estrogen therapy now combines estrogen with another hormone called progesterone (pro-GESS-ter-oan). This combination hormone therapy can reduce the risk of uterine cancer; so can combination birth control pills. In about 50 percent of cases, women have no obvious risk factor, other than age. Early detection offers a good chance for a cure. A yearly pelvic exam, reporting any symptoms, and having an endometrial biopsy or aspiration (ASS-pih-RAY-shun) can help spot this cancer at an early stage. For more information on uterine or endometrial cancer, consult a health care provider.

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