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What is womb cancer?
The womb or uterus is part of the female reproductive system, this where a baby develops. Womb cancer is often referred to uterine and endometrial cancer, and it mostly affects women aged between 40 and 74.* Most womb cancers begin within the cells in the lining of the womb, and in rare cases the cancer can start in the muscles around the womb.
What are the causes of womb cancer?
What exactly causes womb cancer is not precisley known, but there are factors which can increase your risk of developing the disease.
- Age – most cases of womb cancer occur in women aged 40-74
- Oestrogen – during the menopause a smaller amount of oestrogen is produced by the body, this hormonal imbalance can increase the risk of cancer developing
- Weight – being overweight or obese increases the level of oestrogen in your body
- Children – women who haven’t had children are at higher risk
- Diabetes – women with this condition are twice as likely to develop womb cancer**
- Tamoxifen – a treatment for breast cancer, which can increase your risk of developing womb cancer
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) - increasing levels of hormones in your body can increase your risk
- Endometrial hyperplasia – a condition that thickens the womb lining can increase the risk of womb cancer
What are the signs and symptoms of womb cancer?
The most common symptom of womb cancer is abnormal bleeding from the vagina. This refers to any bleeding you experience that isn’t your monthly period. However, just because you have irregular bleeding or spotting between your periods does not mean that you have cancer there are many other reason for this occurrence.
The bleeding you notice at first might be very light but get heavier over time, and it can be accompanied by watery or bloody discharge. If you haven’t gone through the menopause, abnormal vaginal bleeding could be a period that is heavier than normal or bleeding between your monthly periods. Other less common signs include pain during sex and pain in your abdomen.
If you notice any abnormal vaginal bleeding it is advised that you talk to your GP, they will be able to discuss your symptoms with you and carry out any necessary tests.
How do you treat womb cancer?
The most common treatment for womb cancer is a hysterectomy. This is a surgical procedure in which the womb is removed from a woman’s body, this can cure cancer in its early stages however you won’t be able to have children. Radiotherapy, chemotherapy and hormones therapy can also be used; the type of treatment offered to you will depend on your individual needs and diagnosis.
One of the earliest signs of womb cancer is irregular bleeding that takes place in between your periods, as well as watery or bloody discharge. If you have gone through the menopause this is any bleeding that you experience. If you haven’t gone through the menopause a symptom could be a heavier period than normal and bleeding between your periods.
A cervical screening detects any changes to the cells within the lining of your cervix rather than your womb. It is very rare that cells from the womb are collected in this test so at this time it cannot identify whether you have womb cancer.
Irregular bleeding or spotting refers to any vaginal bleeding that you experience between your monthly periods. If you have gone through the menopause this is any blood from your vagina that you experience after this time. If you still get monthly periods irregular bleeding can be lighter or heavier than your normal period, it could also present as a heavier period. It’s a good idea to track your periods and note down what they are like so that it is easy to spot when you have any irregularities.