According to CANSA, uterine cancer, also known as endometrial cancer, is one of the Big Five cancers affecting women in South Africa. This kind of cancer can develop in two places: the endometrium or in the muscle of the uterus, a much rarer form called uterine sarcoma. Because endometrial cancer is more common, we’ll talk about it here.
What’s The Endometrium?
Simply put, it’s the lining of the uterus. The uterus is where a foetus develops, and the endometrial tissue builds up each month in expectation of housing a fertilized egg. If that doesn’t happen, the lining sheds itself and becomes your monthly period. As if this monthly waiting around isn’t enough, your endometrium is prone to cancer, too.
First off, it mainly affects women after they’ve hit menopause. One symptom is bleeding, like periods, when menopause has started. Another is pain in the pelvic area or clear or thin, white discharge post-menopause.
If you haven’t hit menopause, experiencing bleeding in-between periods is another warning sign. However, these could be indicative of another disorder, so check with your GP for a thorough diagnosis.
You’re At Risk If…
Your progesterone and oestrogen levels are out of whack. Your oestrogen exposure begins with your first period, and the longer your exposure, the higher your risk for developing endometrial cancer. That’s because, funnily enough, oestrogen is classified a carcinogen, meaning that it could fuel abnormal growths. Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is another risk factor, as is having obesity.
Fend It Off
Rejoice! Taking hormonal contraceptives has a protective effect against endometrial cancer, provided they’ve been taken for at least one year. Pregnancy and breastfeeding are other protective physical events to add to the list.
But if you’re not wanting to do any of those, as with any cancer, you can also mitigate your risks by living healthily and going for regular check ups with your women’s healthcare provider.