Uterine Cancer Facts to Know

1. Cancer of the lining of the uterus, the endometrium, is the most common gynecologic cancer and ranks seventh among causes of female cancer deaths.

2. According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 38,300 new cases of cancer of the uterine body will be detected in the United States in 2001. The good news is that, if detected and treated early, the prognosis for survival with this type of cancer is excellent.


3. The average woman who develops uterine cancer is in her early 60s.

4. Most uterine cancers develop in the glandular cells or endometrium lining the inside of the uterine cavity. This is the same tissue that is shed each month during a normal menstrual period.

5. A small number of uterine cancers (three percent) are sarcomas, a type of cancer that grows in the muscular and connective tissue elements of the uterus.

6. By studying patients' records, health care professionals have established that estrogen replacement after surgical treatment of early stage uterine cancer does not increase the risk of cancer recurrence.

7. Some women are more likely than others to develop cancer of the uterus. These women are said to be "at risk". Obese women, women who have few or no children, women who began menstruating at a young age, those who had a late menopause, women with or at risk for hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer and women of high socioeconomic status are at increased risk of developing this disease. It appears that most of the risk factors for cancer of the uterus are related to hormones, especially excess estrogen.

8. The safety of both short-term and long-term HRT use is now under intense scrutiny by the Federal government — scrutiny triggered by major studies of HRT published in 2002. In January 2003, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it would require a new, highlighted “black-box” warning on all estrogen products for use by post-menopausal women. The warning suggests an increased risk for heart disease, heart attacks, stroke and breast cancer from supplemental estrogen — risks illuminated by part of the WHI study, which was abruptly halted when the risks were identified.

Also emphasized by the "black-box" warning is that estrogen products are not approved for heart disease prevention. It advises health care professionals to prescribe estrogen products at the lowest dose and for the shortest possible length of time.

9. Uterine cancer is approximately twice as common in Caucasians as it is in African-Americans and other non-Caucasian women. On the other hand, African-Americans who get this type of cancer are more likely to die of the disease, possibly because of delays in diagnosis and treatment.

Copyright 2003

National Women's Health Resource Center Inc. (NWHRC).