Endometrial cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the inner lining or endometrium of the uterus. It accounts for nearly 90 percent of all uterine cancers. Each year, more than 60,000 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with endometrial cancer, and each year, more than 12,000 women will die from it.
Endometrial cancer can be difficult to diagnose because its symptoms are so easily confused with those of other cancers and inflammatory diseases that affect the uterus and the pelvic structures. However, the American Cancer Society recommends that all women who present with abnormal vaginal bleeding and who are over the age of 45, have a history of estrogen exposure, or a familial history of endometrial cancer be evaluated for endometrial cancer.
If treatment for endometrial cancer has been delayed through misdiagnosis, you or your loved one may have legal recourse. Speak with a personal injury attorney who has experience with medical negligence to determine what your options are.
What Are the Causes of Endometrial Cancer?
The exact causes of endometrial cancer are unknown. There appears to be a strong hereditary factor: Approximately 5 percent of endometrial cancers occur in women who have close female relatives who were similarly diagnosed. Women with a familial history of the disease need to make sure their gynecologists or primary care physicians are aware of that history. Estrogen exposure is another risk factor. Many postmenopausal women take estrogen to ease symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swings and vaginal dryness. Estrogen can cause endometrial hyperplasia, however, in which the lining of the uterus grows abnormally thick; this can be a precursor to endometrial cancer in some women.
Endometrial cancer has a number of additional risk factors as well:
• Age: Most endometrial cancers occur in women who are older than 50.
• Obesity: Fat tissues can actually convert a class of hormones called androgens into estrogens.
• Early menarche and late menopause: The more menstrual periods a woman has over the course of her lifetime, the higher her risk of contracting endometrial cancer.
• No prior pregnancies
• Specific medical conditions: Diabetes, metabolic syndrome and ovarian tumors are all associated with an increased risk.
What Are the Symptoms of Endometrial Cancer?
The primary symptom of endometrial cancer is abnormal vaginal bleeding. Women who are younger than 50 may experience this as heavy breakthrough bleeding between periods. Women who are postmenopausal may experience a watery, pinkish vaginal discharge instead of bleeding. Another common symptom is pain with urination or difficulty with urination generally. Women in the advanced stages of endometrial cancer may also be affected by pelvic pain and unexplained weight losses.
These symptoms are also associated with other diseases and conditions as well, so by themselves, they are not conclusive. However, since early detection and treatment greatly enhances the chances of recovery, any woman who experiences these symptoms would be well advised to schedule a consultation with her physician.
How Is Endometrial Cancer Diagnosed and Treated?
Your physician will most likely perform a complete pelvic examination. If the pelvic exam suggests anything unusual, imaging tests such as CT and PET scans or an MRI may be carried out.
If endometrial cancer is not ruled out by these tests, your physician will probably want to check your endometrial tissue for abnormal cells. This procedure is called an endometrial biopsy. The cells will then be checked by a pathologist who’s an expert in analyzing individual cell types.
If the presence of cancer cells is confirmed, the staging process will take place. This process determines the extent to which the cancer has spread to other parts of your body. More than 70 percent of all women who are diagnosed with endometrial cancer are diagnosed at Stage I when the cancer cells are still confined to the uterus. In Stage II, the cancer has spread to the cervix; in Stage III, it has spread to the ovaries, vagina and/or adjacent lymph nodes. In Stage IV endometrial cancer, the disease has spread to organs outside the reproductive tract.
Treatment for endometrial cancer can involve a number of options. A surgical hysterectomy may be the only treatment needed if the cancer is early stage and completely contained within the uterus. Radiation may be indicated if the cancer has spread to nearby structures like the cervix. If there is evidence of more extensive metastasis, your physician may recommend chemotherapy and specialized hormone-blocking drugs.
Endometrial Cancer Misdiagnoses
Endometrial cancer misdiagnoses don’t happen often, but when they do occur, the results can be devastating. In some instances, patients who don’t have the disease may be subjected to unnecessary hysterectomies. In others, there may be a delayed diagnosis or a failure to diagnose, which permits the cancer to spread. For more than 10 years, Zayed Law Offices have been helping clients in Chicago and elsewhere throughout the U.S. deal with negligent health care providers who have misdiagnosed endometrial cancer. Contact our office today to set up a no-cost consultation with one of our experienced staff members.