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Uterine Cancer

Q: What is uterine cancer?

Dr. Donnica:
Uterine cancer is a malignancy of any part of the uterus or womb.  Most uterine cancers begin in the lining of the uterus, called the endometrium, and develop after menopause. Cancer of the endometrium is the most common cancer of the female reproductive organs.  It is estimated that 38,300 new cases will be diagnosed and 6,600 women will die from uterine cancer in 2001. This is why it is particularly important for women to continue to have their annual Pap smears after they go through menopause.

Warning signs include any bleeding whatsoever after menopause, or irregular vaginal bleeding before menopause.  Risk factors include obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, unopposed estrogen use, tamoxifen use and late menopause.  Women who have not been pregnant also have a slightly higher risk.  Women who take birth control pills before menopause are at decreased risk of endometrial cancer.

The risk of unopposed estrogen use is entirely preventable.  Women who have not had a hysterectomy who desire estrogen replacement therapy to prevent or treat consequences of menopause MUST take a form of progesterone as well in order to prevent overstimulation of the endometrium, which can become a precancerous condition.  I am amazed by how many stories I hear of menopausal women who are not aware of this and neglect to take their progesterone. 

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Created: 3/9/2001  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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