Women’s health is something we care about deeply at Pink Parcel. From PMS to sore nipples to cancer, there’s nothing we won’t talk about, which is why we teamed up with The Eve Appeal in support of Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Month. For the last few weeks, we’ve helped the UK’s only gynaecological cancer charity to spread the key signs and symptoms of the five gynae cancers and talk as much as we can about how you can safeguard yourself against them – read again the NTKs of ovarian cancer and cervical cancer, learn all about cancer of the vulva and the vagina, and today, get the lowdown on womb cancer.
What is womb cancer?
Cancer of the womb is also called uterine cancer (the medical name for the womb) or endometrial cancer, which is occurs within the lining of the womb and is the most common of womb cancers.
What are the symptoms?
When a cancer starts, these cells change from their normal appearance, appearing to increase in size until they begin to develop into a tumour. Cancer growth can often cause an unexpected vaginal bleed, so abnormal bleeding is the most common symptom of womb cancer – this can be bleeding between periods, pink, brown or very dark discharge or bleeding after the menopause, and should be checked out your GP straight away. Around 90% of endometrial cancer diagnoses are reported due to post-menopausal or irregular vaginal bleeding but it’s important to remember that *most* people with abnormal bleeding won’t have a gynaecological cancer. Every woman is different.
How does it develop?
The Eve Appeal says that most womb cancers begin in the endometrium (womb lining), where the cells that grow are then shed each month as a period. When a cancer starts, these cells change from their normal appearance, increasing in size until they begin to develop into a tumour.
There are many different types of womb cancer – some are linked to genetic causes, others to hormones, but often cancer can occur with no obvious cause. However, there are certain things that increase the chances of developing the condition.
With a hormone imbalance – specifically high levels of oestrogen in the body – the risk of developing womb cancer increases.
A hormone imbalance can be caused by many things, including being overweight, having diabetes and hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Maintaining a healthy weight and the long-term use of some types of contraception, are thought to reduce the risk, suggests The Eve Appeal.
How common is it?
The number of women developing womb cancer is on the increase, due to a change in our lifestyles. It is the fourth most common cancer in the UK and the most common of female reproductive cancers, with over 9,300 women diagnosed every year in this country.
How is it diagnosed and treatment?
Any abnormal bleeding should be investigated by your GP because for some women, it can be a sign of womb cancer. If your doctor finds reasons to be concerned, they will refer you for further tests which include a transvaginal ultrasound (an internal scan) and a biopsy (where some of your cells are removed to be examined).
If you recently had a smear test and it was clear, it is still important to talk to your GP about abnormal vaginal bleeding or spotting. The condition can’t be picked up by a cervical smear because the smear test only looks for abnormalities at the neck of the womb and problems with the cervix. Womb cancer develops deeper into the body in the womb lining – the endometrium.
Removal of the womb by surgery – a hysterectomy – is the most common way to treat womb cancer if it is identified at an early stage (in the lining of the womb). It’s likely that the fallopian tubes and ovaries will also be removed, say the NHS. If a woman is yet to go through the menopause and would still like to have children, a type of hormone therapy may be used. If it has grown into the next layer of the womb, radiotherapy can be used to manage the cancer.
Why is talking about cancer so important?
Recent research by The Eve Appeal revealed that cancer of the womb, ovary and cervix all appear in the list of the twenty most diagnosed cancers in England yet despite this, only one in five women have talked about the signs and symptoms of gynaecological cancer with friends or family. Use the #gynaemonth hashtag to raise awareness and spread the word on gynae health.
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