Endometrial cancer can also be called uterine cancer, as it starts in the uterus, which is an organ in the female body where the fetus develops. It is also one of the most common types of uterine cancer that can plague the uterus. There are different types of endometrial cancer, and they can spread to other parts of the body if severe. Endometrial cancer can be caused by the rapid growth of the endometrium cells which may cause the uterus lining to thicken in certain places. It is the thickened areas of the uterus lining that starts to form a mass of tissue which becomes a tumor. Cancer cells have the ability to spread, which is why endometrial cancer may spread to other parts of the body. Women who are in their menopause have a high risk of having endometrial cancer. Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), abnormal hormone levels, obesity, and Lynch syndrome also have a much higher risk of having endometrial cancer than women who do not. Endometrial cancer is specific to women because it is uterine cancer and men do not have a uterus. Persons who suffer from endometrial cancer may experience pelvic pain, watery or bloody discharge, which is not normal, vaginal bleeding after menopause, and bleeding in between menstrual periods.
What are the Types of Endometrial Cancer?
Endometrial cancer has different types, depending on the appearance of the cells under a microscope. Here are the types of endometrial cancer:
Adenocarcinoma is a type of cancer that occurs in the lining of body organs. One can have adenocarcinoma in the breasts, esophagus, colon, lungs, prostate, uterus or pancreas. Endometrial cancer is an adenocarcinoma as it occurs in the lining of the uterus. An adenocarcinoma can be diagnosed by taking blood tests, imaging tests, and a biopsy. It can, however, be treated by using radiation, chemotherapy, medications, and surgery in severe cases. The symptoms people with adenocarcinoma may exhibit depends on the body organ affected.
Carcinosarcoma is a type of cancer that occurs in the tissues of the uterus or womb. Carcinosarcoma can spread to other parts/organs of the body, depending on the stage. Stage I of carcinosarcoma would not spread yet, it is still limited to the uterus. When it reaches stage II, cancer begins to spread to the cervix. Cancer spreads beyond the cervix and uterus but has not spread beyond the pelvis when it has reached stage III, and carcinosarcoma has reached stage IV when cancer spreads beyond the pelvis to the bladder, abdomen, and groin. Persons who have carcinosarcoma may experience frequent urinating, abdominal pain, a mass in the vagina area, feeling full all the time and abnormal vaginal bleeding that is unrelated to menstrual periods.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
This is the type of cancer that affects the skin and also the cervix. It is seen on the uterine wall and may spread to the inner surface of the uterus. Squamous cell carcinoma in the uterus is, however, a rare phenomenon. Persons who have human papillomavirus (HPV) are more susceptible to squamous cell carcinoma and people who have multiple sexual partners, smoke cigarettes, have sexual intercourse with someone who has penile warts and intercourse without protection have a high risk of contracting human papillomavirus (HPV).
An undifferentiated carcinoma can be more malignant than differentiated tumors as undifferentiated carcinomas tend to grow and spread faster than differentiated tumors. Undifferentiated carcinoma of the endometrium is a rare type of endometrial cancer and can be found in women who are around the age of 50 years and above. Women who suffer from undifferentiated carcinoma may experience pain during intercourse, abdominal vaginal bleeding; in severe cases, abdominal swelling caused by fluid buildup or the mass, constipation, weight loss, loss of appetite, fatigue, frequent urination (polyuria) and abdominal bloating accompanied with nausea and/or vomiting.
Small Cell Carcinoma
Small cell carcinoma is a type of cancer that can be seen in different parts of the body such as the lungs, prostate, cervix and gastrointestinal tract. Small cell carcinoma of the uterus is a rare type of endometrial cancer found in women who are about 50 years old. Persons who are obese, people who started menstruating before 12 years and reached menopause after the age of 55 years have PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), family history of small cell carcinoma of the uterus, endometrial hyperplasia, poor diet, tamoxifen therapy, estrogen therapy for a long period of time, diabetic patients, radiation therapy, high blood pressure, history of breast cancer, history of ovarian cancer, conditions that trigger hormonal imbalance and people who use intrauterine contraceptive devices (IUDs) have a higher risk of having small cell carcinoma of the uterus than people who do not have the conditions listed.
Transitional cell carcinoma is a type of cancer that starts in the transitional cells which are capable of stretching without breaking and changing shape. Transitional cells are found in the lining of the renal pelvis, bladder, ureters, and urethra as they are needed to stretch and expand when urine flows through them or when urine is stored in them. Transitional carcinoma can also be found in the uterus.
Stages of Endometrial Cancer
Endometrial cancer can be categorized into four stages as there are three ways by which cancer can spread in the body. It can spread through the tissue, the lymph system which is a passage that conveys cancer cells that intend to spread to other parts of the body, and it can spread to other parts of the body by traveling through the blood vessels. Here are the stages of endometrial cancer:
Stage I of endometrial cancer has stage IA and stage IB. The cancer is already in the endometrium and is about halfway or less through the muscle layer of the uterus which can also be called the myometrium which consists of the uterine myocytes which are the uterine smooth muscle cells and the supporting stromal and vascular tissue. The myometrium is the middle layer of the uterine wall which usually triggers uterine contractions. In stage IB of endometrial cancer, cancer has gone halfway or more through the myometrium.
In stage II of endometrial cancer, cancer must have spread to the connective tissue of the cervix but not beyond the uterus. The connective tissue of the cervix is found in the stroma of the cervix which also houses the muscle fibers and elastic tissue.
In stage III of endometrial cancer, we have stages IIIA, IIIB, and IIIC which all depend on how far cancer has spread. Cancer at this stage has spread beyond the uterus but not the cervix. In stage IIIA, cancer must have spread to the outer layer of the uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, and uterus ligaments. Cancer must have spread to the vagina and the parametrium which is the collective tissue and fat found around the uterus in stage IIIB. Stage IIIC of endometrial cancer is the stage where cancer has spread to the lymph nodes in the pelvis and around the aorta which is responsible for the transportation of blood away from the heart.
This is the final stage of endometrial cancer, and it is categorized into stage IVA and stage IVB. In stage IVA, cancer has spread to the bowel wall and bladder of the patient, while stage IVB sees that cancer has spread beyond the pelvis to other areas such as the lymph nodes in the groin and abdomen.
Endometrial cancer is a condition that can reduce considerably one’s quality of life. It is, however, treatable if detected in time. There are different treatment plans for persons with endometrial cancer, depending on the stage one has. It is advisable to consult a doctor immediately one starts to experience the symptoms of endometrial cancer.