Endometrial adenocarcinoma is a common form of gynecological cancer that primarily affects the endometrium, the lining of the uterine walls. This cancer occurs most frequently in postmenopausal women, though it can affect any female of reproductive age. The exact causes of this kind of adenocarcinoma are not well understood, but doctors believe that high levels of estrogen, hypertension, and obesity are significant risk factors. If the cancer goes undetected and untreated, it can quickly spread to other parts of the reproductive system. Surgery is usually effective at removing the cancerous tissue and preventing further medical complications.
Estrogen regulates the growth and health of endometrial tissue in women. An abnormally high level of estrogen can cause cells to become cancerous and proliferate throughout the endometrial tissue. Risk factors for increased hormone levels and endometrial adenocarcinoma include a family history of reproductive cancers, obesity, diabetes, and hormone therapy treatments for other conditions. Women who have suffered from other forms of cancer, especially breast, ovarian, or lung cancer, are at an increased risk of developing this condition.
A postmenopausal woman with endometrial cancer usually experiences abnormal vaginal bleeding, abdominal pain, and frequent cramps. Women who have not yet experienced menopause may have irregular periods accompanied by excessive bleeding. Adenocarcinoma can also cause milky vaginal discharge in women of any age. As the cancer progresses, a woman might experience fatigue, weakness, and nausea. An individual who experiences any potential symptoms of this condition should schedule an appointment with a gynecologist immediately.
A gynecologist can conduct a series of tests to check for adenocarcinoma. A common diagnostic procedure known as a Pap test or Pap smear involves collecting small samples of surface endometrial cells for laboratory analysis. Specialists check samples for signs of adenocarcinoma and other common gynecological problems. If Pap smear results point to cancer, the gynecologist will usually conduct an ultrasound or collect a larger sample of tissue to determine the severity of the disease.
Treatment for endometrial adenocarcinoma typically involves surgery. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are seldom used because they are generally less effective at eliminating this type of cancer. If adenocarcinoma is in its early stages, a surgeon can usually remove only the affected area of endometrial tissue. More severe or widespread cancer may require removal of the entire uterus in a procedure known as a hysterectomy. Following surgery, most patients are encouraged to schedule regular appointments with their gynecologists to ensure that all cancerous tissue has been removed.