MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — September is Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month.
Uterine cancer is becoming more common in the Gulf Coast area, and where it used to be seen only in older women, more younger women are being diagnosed.
Uterine cancer is the most common cancer of the female reproductive organs, the fourth most common cancer diagnosed among women in the United States, and the seventh most common cause of cancer death among U.S. women.
Also referred to as endometrial cancer, uterine cancer usually affects some women after menopause, but there are several risk factors.
“Obesity is probably one of the biggest risk factors that we think when we think about uterine cancer. About 2/3 of the US population is overweight and about 1/3 of those are actually obese. That’s a significant risk factor,” said Dr. Nate Jones, Assistant Professor of GYN Oncology.
Women who have not had children are also more likely to develop uterine cancer. Other factors that increase a woman’s risk for uterine cancer include diabetes, things that affect hormone levels, like taking estrogen after menopause, as well as diet and exercise. Family history could also play a role.
Dr. Jones said, “If uterine cancer and or colon cancer runs in your family then absolutely we would want you to get screened and get tested because you might have the inherited form or the predisposition to developing that.”
Uterine cancer typically presents itself with postmenopausal bleeding.
“They’ve stopped having their periods after menopause, they start having some abnormal bleeding, and that sort of spurs them to go get evaluated and that’s often how we diagnose it,” Dr. Jones told Cherish Lombard.
The prognosis is usually good if caught early, and the cancer can be treated with surgery.
Dr. Jones said, “It’s a hysterectomy and removal of both tubes and ovaries and oftentimes removal of lymph nodes to kind of help aid in the staging.”
There are options for younger women diagnosed, who still want to have children.
“We are considering fertility-sparing options because a lot of these women have not completed their childbearing desires. If their cancer is well-behaved we often treat those with high dose hormones called progesterone that counteract the effect of the estrogen that often drives the tumor to grow,” Dr. Jones told News 5.