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Uterine Cancer Treatment
According to the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), uterine cancer or cancer of the uterus or womb is the most common cancer of the female reproductive tract in the United States. It occurs when abnormal cells develop in the uterus, eventually growing and multiplying out of control.
Uterine cancer is uncommon in women under 45 years old. Although the average age for a uterine cancer patient is 60 years old, it’s still important to know all about this disease.
What Treatments Are Available?
There are various treatments available for uterine cancer that patients can choose from depending on their situation and other factors that might affect their health and lifestyle.
The ways how to treat uterine cancer are as follows:
Uterine cancer surgery is the most common treatment available. The first treatment for uterine cancer is surgically removing the uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes, or ovaries, depending on the stage of the disease.
Radiation for uterine cancer works the same way for other cancers. It utilizes x-rays to kill cancer cells. It is commonly used as an additional treatment to lessen the chance of cancer coming back. It may also be recommended as the primary treatment if the patient is not well enough for surgery. Radiation treatment is often used after surgery for endometrial cancer to kill any cancer cells that might have stayed.
Hormone therapy is usually given to patients if cancer has already spread to other parts of the body or recurred. It is also sometimes used by doctors if surgery is not an option. Progesterone is the primary hormone treatment given to patients with uterine cancer as it helps shrink some cancers and control symptoms.
Chemotherapy is used to treat cancer. It is also used when a tumor comes back after radiotherapy or surgery or does not respond to hormonal treatment. This uses drugs designed to kill cancer cells and decreases the size of tumors.
Palliative care aims to improve the quality of life of cancer patients by alleviating pain and managing symptoms. Aside from improving the quality of life and helping with symptoms, palliative care can also help patients understand and decide their medical treatment choices. A palliative care consultation team works with the patient, family, patient’s other doctors to provide social, medical, emotional, and practical support.
Palliative care can also be provided along with other curative treatments. But suppose the doctor or the palliative care team believes that the ongoing treatment is no longer helping cure the disease and symptoms. In that case, palliative care could transition to hospice care.
What Is Hospice Care?
Many patients are already choosing hospice care at the end of their lives. The patient beginning hospice care understood that the illness is no longer responding to treatment. It’s provided to a patient whose doctor believes that they have only six months or less to live.
Hospice care is a special kind of care that focuses on the quality of life for people who have life-limiting, advanced, incurable disease or those who have decided to discontinue treatment that is causing more physical distress than the benefit. It’s also for any person who’s no longer seeking aggressive treatment so that they may still live as comfortably as possible. It provides compassionate care to people in the final stage of their lives.
Hospice is an approach to care. It can be offered at home or in a facility. Such as a nursing home, hospital, or even in a separate hospice center.
A Closer Look: Types of Uterine Cancer
There are two main types of uterine cancer. These are:
Endometrial cancer or cancer of the endometrium (lining of the uterus) or adenocarcinoma. This type accounts for more than 95% of uterine cancer cases.
Subtypes of this cancer are as follows:
- Endometrioid carcinoma (common subtype)
- Serous adenocarcinoma
- Adenosquamous carcinoma
- Uterine clear-cell carcinoma
- Uterine carcinosarcoma (mix of adenocarcinoma and sarcoma)
Uterine sarcoma. On the other hand, this type develops in the muscle tissue of the uterus or wall (myometrium). In contrast, uterine sarcomas are rare in uterine cancer but are more aggressive and harder to treat. The chance of surviving cancer in the uterus for at least five years is 83%.
- Uterine leiomyosarcoma
- Endometrial stromal sarcoma
- Undifferentiated sarcoma
What Causes Uterine Cancer?
The exact cause of uterine cancer is unknown based on much cancer research. Many risk factors of endometrial cancer are due to the imbalance between estrogen and progesterone hormones in the body. Scientists suspect that some interaction between estrogen and progesterone receptors and the hormones may have caused the increase in the growth of the endometrium, with the abnormal cell growth, which then leads to cancer.
According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and other groups, many factors may increase the risk of having uterine cancer: endometrial cancer or uterine sarcoma. These factors include:
- High estrogen levels. In some cases, elevated estrogen levels may be due to estrogen supplements in post-menopausal women or other hormonal drugs being taken to treat other conditions.
- Obesity. This factor links to 70% of uterine cancer cases as those who are overweight produce more estrogen.
- Diabetes. Research showed that women with diabetes have double the risk of having uterine than those who don’t. High blood sugar means the body can’t produce insulin that cells need to use glucose.
- Metabolic syndrome. This is the combination of different conditions such as high blood sugar and high triglyceride levels. High blood pressure and low levels of high-density lipoprotein in the blood increase risk of having uterine cancer even if the woman isn’t overweight.
- History. Women with previous diagnoses of cancer are also at risk, especially those who had ovarian cancer, colon cancer, or breast cancer.
What Are the Different Ways to Prevent Uterine Cancer?
Prevention is better than cure. This is why noting necessary precautions to avoid the possibility of undergoing uterine cancer treatment is essential. Unfortunately, there is no known way to prevent uterine cancer. However, doing the following can lower the chance of having the disease.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Exercise and other activities that keep you physically active don’t only make you look and feel good. It also keeps your chances of acquiring severe illnesses, like uterine cancer, at bay.
- Take progesterone. Include progesterone or progestin in case you’re using estrogen supplements to relieve menopausal symptoms. Doing so balances your estrogen levels, so the lining of the uterus doesn’t grow.
- Use birth control pills. Oral contraceptives have female sex hormones that can trigger or prevent cancers.
What Are the Symptoms of Uterine Cancer?
No one can notice the changes in your body better than you. This is why you should be aware of what to look for to care for your health properly. The following are what you should look out for:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding
- Difficult or painful urination
- Unintentional weight loss
- Pain during intercourse
- Unusual vaginal discharge without signs of blood
- Pain or mass in the pelvic area
- Abdominal pain
- Frequent urination
- Feeling full at all times
- Lump or growth in the vagina
How to Diagnose Uterine Cancer
To correctly choose what uterine cancer treatments options a patient can undergo, the following tests or procedures may be used to diagnose uterine cancer:
- Laboratory tests such as advanced genomic testing and CA-125 blood test
- Imaging tests such as ultrasound, computed tomography (CT) scan, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Pelvic examination
- Endometrial biopsy
- Sentinel lymph node biopsy
- Dilation and curettage (D&C) with hysterectomy
Why Choose All American Hospice for Your Hospice Care?
All American Hospice wants you to remain as independent and involved in your care as possible and wants to help you do your usual routine. Below are some of the services we offer when you choose us for your hospice care:
- A nurse will visit your home regularly to check on the patient and teach the family members on the management of the patient’s symptoms.
- A home health aide will provide personal care.
- A medical social worker will offer emotional support to the patient and the whole family and plan on the care of the patient.
- We will provide you with a chaplain who will offer spiritual support for the patient and family.
- We also have a trained volunteer ready to help with your practical needs such as errands, transportation, and companionship.
- We have grief support staff and volunteers who can offer support for the families 13 months after the patient’s death.