Uterus is one of the strong reproductive organs in women. It plays a key role in holding fetus or baby during pregnancy. Endometrial cancer is a serious health condition that arises due to development of harmful and malignant cells on the outer layer of uterus which is called as ‘endometrium’. This cancer is also referred to as ‘uterine cancer’. It can adversely affect health of women and cause life-threatening complications if not treated on right time. Therefore, early diagnosis and treatment of endometrial cancer are extremely crucial for retaining a good health condition.
Causes and Risk Factors Associated with Endometrial Cancer
Unfortunately, medical experts have not been able to identify the root cause of this cancer. However, the following risk factors may fuel up possibility of getting endometrial cancer.
● Hormonal Changes – Hormonal changes in women doubles up the chances of endometrial cancer.
● Early Menstruation – Medical professionals state that early menstruation, mostly before the age of twelve, can lead to endometrial cancer in long run. However, there is no evidence which can prove this statement.
● No Pregnancy – Women who have not undergone pregnancy are at a greater risk of getting endometrial cancer as compared to others.
● Age Factor – This cancer generally occurs in women above the age of 50, especially after menopause.
● Family History and Obesity – Women who are overweight and have a family history of endometrial cancer are considerably at a higher risk of encountering endometrial cancer.
Signs and Symptoms of Endometrial Cancer
The following list describes some of the major signs and symptoms of endometrial cancer. Women experiencing such symptoms must look for a prompt clinical opinion.
● Abnormal Vaginal Discharge – Abnormal, bloody, sticky or watery discharge from vagina is the primary indication of endometrial cancer. Women experiencing such changes in vaginal discharge must consult a gynecologist or oncologist for precise health diagnosis.
● Pelvic Pain – Women experiencing frequent episodes of severe pelvic pain should visit a doctor for figuring out its root cause. Such condition may emerge due to an underlying endometrial cancer.
● Bleeding After Menopause – Bleeding after menopause is not normal. It may signify presence of endometrial cancer. Women must indulge in regular health check-ups after menopause to ensure their good health.
● Unintended Weight Loss – A sudden and unintentional loss of weight is a clear sign of cancer. Women who have experienced a massive change in their weight within a short span should not delay in visiting a cancer specialist.
Neglecting these symptoms can result in various health complications and may prove fatal. Therefore, women must stay careful and avail an early diagnosis.
Diagnosing Endometrial Cancer
Respective oncologists may begin the diagnosis by asking some basic yet important questions. They may ask regarding the signs and symptoms which are bothering patients. They may ask medical history and medicines which patients consume on a regular basis for figuring out their current health status. After that, they may advise them to undergo given diagnostic tests.
● Pelvic Evaluation – During a pelvic evaluation, oncologists inspects genitals of patients. They may insert two fingers in vagina to sense any abnormality or they may use a special medical device called as ‘speculum’ to open the vagina and clearly view internal condition.
● Transvaginal Ultrasound Test – This test involves use of a thin medical instrument known as a ‘transducer’. Transducer works on principle of producing high-quality images of a specific region with the help of sound waves. Respective doctors insert this device into vaginal opening of patients for creating pictures of endometrial lining and surrounding structures. This procedure can considerably help in recognizing underlying problem.
● Hysteroscopy – Hysteroscopy can identify the exact cause of abnormal vaginal discharge and bleeding. It is performed by inserting a flexible and thin tube-like medical tool called as ‘hysteroscope’ in patient’s vagina. It possesses a lens on outer edge which enables the surgeon to check out entire endometrium.
● Endometrial Biopsy – An endometrial biopsy test involves taking off a sample of tissues and cells from endometrial lining of uterus and evaluating them in laboratory. It can certainly help in determining presence of any abnormality in uterus. In some instances, where it is not possible to extract a sample of desired amount of tissues easily, surgeons may opt for a method called as ‘dilation and curettage’. This method involves scraping off tissues directly from uterus and testing them in laboratory.
In addition to this, surgeons may also order tests like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI test) and computerized tomography test (CT scan). Just like transvaginal ultrasound, these tests can also help generate high-quality pictures of endometrium and nearby tissues.
Stages of Endometrial Cancer
Diagnostic tests can clearly convey the extent of endometrial cancer. Depending on its extent, endometrial cancer has been categorized into the following different stages.
● Stage 1 – This is the developmental stage of endometrial cancer where abnormal cells begin to accumulate on endometrial layer in uterus.
● Stage 2 – This stage refers to a condition where malignant cells and tissues grow in uterus and spread to nearby cervix region as well.
● Stage 3 – This stage is an advanced stage of endometrial cancer where abnormal cells spread beyond uterus and affect entire pelvic region of patients including their rectum, bladder, and lymph nodes.
● Stage 4 – This stage is terminal stage of endometrial cancer where it starts to spread in whole body and negatively affect other body organs as well. It becomes difficult for oncologists to treat patients in final stage of cancer.
Treatment Options for Endometrial Cancer
Respective oncologists choose a suitable treatment depending on patient’s health requirements. The below-mentioned list elaborates treatment options for endometrial cancer.
● Endometrial Cancer Surgery – Surgery for endometrial cancer involves complete removal of uterus affected by cancerous cells and tissues. The procedure is clinically known as ‘hysterectomy’. Along with uterus, respective surgeons may also remove ovaries and fallopian tubes of patients. Although it will result in menopause, patients will be able to live cancer-free life and notice a considerable improvement in their health condition.
● Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy is one of the most effective treatments for endometrial cancer. Oncologists give certain powerful medicines and drugs to patients that are known as ‘chemo drugs’. These drugs significantly help in killing cancerous endometrial cells.
● Radiation Therapy – Radiation therapy is a simple and pain-free procedure that involves destroying cancerous cells on endometrial layer with the help of high-intensity radiation. This procedure is mostly performed in combination with chemotherapy to wipe out remaining abnormal tissues.
● Hormone Therapy – Hormone therapy can help in producing essential hormones and decreasing the levels of unwanted hormones that aggravate malignant condition. Surgeons may provide medicines like synthetic progestin to increase production of progesterone hormone which can stop the development of cancerous endometrial cells and tissues to a greater extent. They may also suggest some medicines which lower down the production of estrogen which will eventually help in destroying cancer cells present in patients endometrium.
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Risks and Complications Associated with Endometrial Cancer Treatment
The following list describes general risks and complications associated with different types of endometrial cancer treatments.
● Endometrial Cancer Surgery – It may involve complications such as heavy bleeding, bladder or bowel impairment, urinary infections, and vaginal problems.
● Chemotherapy and Radiation Therapy – Patients who have undergone chemotherapy or radiation therapy for treating endometrial cancer may have to face problems like dehydration, diarrhea, hair loss, nausea, bloating, and vaginal irritation.
● Hormone Therapy – Hormone therapy for endometrial cancer may result in complications such as night sweats, hot flashes, weight gain, and vaginal dryness.
Patients must attend follow-up care sessions to minimize such problems and improve health following endometrial cancer treatment.
Recovery Following Endometrial Cancer Treatment
Complete recovery depends on several factors such as stage of cancer, type of treatment, patient’s general health, and lifestyle changes during the healing phase. Women must begin to eat healthy foods especially fresh vegetables and fruits to speed up recovery. Respective oncologists are likely to provide a diet plan to serve the purpose. In addition to this, they may refer them to a well-trained psychologist for helping them cope up with emotional trauma. Patients must visit respective doctors on a regular basis to reduce postoperative complications and improve overall health. A positive mindset and a strong willpower can significantly bring good changes in their body.
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