Womb cancer

Womb cancer develops in the lining or the wall of the womb. It is caused by an abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells.

It can be malignant (cancerous) or benign (not cancerous).

Malignant tumours can grow through your womb and spread to other parts of your body through the bloodstream or the lymph system. If these cells start to grow in other areas, they can form secondary tumours. When cancer spreads in this way it is called a metastasis.

Benign tumours don't spread to other areas of the body.

Womb cancer often causes symptoms quite early and so treatment can be very effective. There are two types of womb cancer: 1) endometrial cancer, which starts in the endometrial layer of the womb,2)uterine sarcoma, which develops in the muscle wall of the womb, is a rarer type of womb cancer that is harder to treat

Eight out of 10 cancers of the womb are endometrial cancers.


Symptoms

There are a number of symptoms that might be caused by cancer of the womb:

    * bleeding after the menopause
    * bleeding between periods
    * unusually heavy vaginal bleeding
    * vaginal discharge
    * pain in the lower abdomen (tummy), back or legs
    * loss of weight or appetite
    * changes in bowel habits or passing water more frequently
    * pain or discomfort during sex

If you notice any of these symptoms, talk to you GP. It's important to remember that cancer isn't the only cause of these symptoms. Early diagnosis makes it easier to treat womb cancer so it's worth seeing a doctor quickly.

Causes

No one knows exactly what causes womb cancer. However, there are a number of factors that increase your risk of developing it.

Endometrial cancer is most common among women aged between 50 and 64, or after the menopause. Three-quarters of women who develop endometrial cancer have gone through the menopause. Going through the menopause after the age of 52 increases the risk of endometrial cancer. Being obese puts you at higher risk of developing endometrial cancer. If other close family members have had bowel, stomach, ovarian or womb cancer, you may have a slightly increased risk of developing endometrial cancer. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) slightly increases the risk for endometrial cancer, especially when taken in the long-term. Unknown factors in the environment - for example, the incidence of endometrial cancer is higher in the US and Europe compared to the rest of the world.

Having diabetes increases the risk of endometrial cancer. Never having children makes you more likely to develop womb cancer. If you have had breast or bowel cancer, there is a slightly increased risk. Tamoxifen, which is used to treat breast cancer, can slightly increase the risk of developing endometrial cancer. The benefits from taking tamoxifen will far outweigh any risks.

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