Q&A Topic: Endometrial Cancer

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Iris Wertheim, MD

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Q. What is endometrial cancer and how do I know if I am at risk?

A. Endometrial cancer arises in the glands of the lining of the uterus. The major risk factor is age: it usually occurs in post-menopausal women between the ages of 55 and 64. Another major risk factor is any condition that produces excess estrogen. Receptors in the uterine lining make it highly reactive to estrogen. Elevated levels of estrogen can overly stimulate receptive uterine cells causing them to grow uncontrollably and turn into cancer. The main cause of elevated estrogen in American women is obesity. A woman who carries extra weight has more fat cells, which store a hormone that converts to estrogen. As a result, obesity puts women of any age at risk for endometrial cancer. Other risk factors include Tamoxifen use, hypertension, familial cancer syndromes (such as Lynch Syndrome), and diabetes.

Q. What symptoms should I look out for?    

A. The most common symptom is bleeding after menopause. Non-menopausal women should pay attention to an irregular bleeding pattern: heavy bleeding or bleeding between periods. At the first symptom, see your gynecologist. You will typically have an endometrial biopsy and a pelvic ultrasound. If the biopsy reveals endometrial cancer, see a gynecologic oncologist.

Q.  What are my treatment options?

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A. The main treatment is a hysterectomy to remove the uterus. At Northern Westchester Hospital, robot-assisted surgery is performed on most patients with endometrial cancer. Patients benefit from decreased blood loss and risk of infection, and faster recoveries. Tiny incisions are an advantage for obese women, who are at greater risk for wound infection; while being mobile the next day reduces the risk of blood clots. When endometrial cancer is discovered early, post-surgical outcomes are good.

Q.  Can I reduce my risk of developing endometrial cancer?   

A. You can reduce your risk by maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly. Know your Body Mass Index (BMI), which represents body fat, and strive for under 25. A BMI greater than 30 indicates obesity. And see your gynecologist at the first sign of abnormal bleeding.

Northern Westchester Hospital
Director of the Gynecologic Oncology
Program at the Cancer Treatment and Wellness Center
Learn More About Dr. Wertheim

Northern Westchester Hospital is a proud member of Northwell Health.

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