Mayo Clinic: My sister, who is 56, recently was diagnosed with
early-stage endometrial cancer. Iím wondering if this kind
of cancer runs in families. Could I be at risk for it, too?
Are there other things that can raise a womanís risk for
endometrial cancer? Are there any screening tests available
increased risk for endometrial cancer can run in families in
some cases, but itís rare. More commonly, this kind of
cancer is linked to risk factors such as obesity, age and
having other underlying medical conditions. At this time, no
screening test is available for endometrial cancer.
Researchers are, however, studying a test that could help
detect this type of cancer in its earliest stages.
cancer begins in the uterus, within the layer of cells that
form the uterine lining, called the endometrium. You may
sometimes hear endometrial cancer referred to as uterine
your sisterís case, endometrial cancer often is found when
itís still at an early stage. Thatís because the most
common symptom, abnormal vaginal bleeding, usually prompts a
woman to see her doctor. If endometrial cancer is discovered
early, surgically removing the uterus typically offers a cure.
cancer on its own is not a disease you inherit. However, a
genetic disorder known as Lynch syndrome that is passed down
through families has been shown to increase the risk of
developing endometrial cancer, as well as other cancers of the
colon, stomach, kidney, small intestine, liver and sweat
glands. If youíre concerned about a family history of these
kinds of cancers, discuss it with your doctor to see if
genetic testing might be appropriate.
cases, though, factors other than family history play a larger
role in raising a personís risk for endometrial cancer. Some
of the most significant include medical conditions that change
the balance of the hormones estrogen and progesterone in your
body. Examples of such conditions include obesity, polycystic
ovary syndrome and diabetes. Fluctuations in the balance of
these hormones cause changes in the endometrium. Having high
blood pressure or high cholesterol can raise your risk for
endometrial cancer, too.
who have never been pregnant, those who started menstruation
at an early age or who go through menopause at a later age,
and women who have had hormone therapy for the treatment of
breast cancer all are at an increased risk for endometrial
cancer. Age is a factor, as well. Endometrial cancer most
often affects women after they have gone through menopause.
now, there isnít a noninvasive way to check for endometrial
cancer. When symptoms appear, a sample of the endometrial
tissue has to be surgically removed and examined, or biopsied,
to determine whether a woman has endometrial cancer.
clinical trial is underway at Mayo Clinic thatís studying
the effectiveness of collecting and examining samples of
uterine fluid via a tampon for diagnosing endometrial cancer.
The study currently has more than 1,000 participants. If the
results show promise, it may offer a new, less invasive way to
identify this cancer quickly.
are worried about endometrial cancer or if you notice any
abnormal vaginal bleeding ó such as bleeding after
menopause, bleeding between periods or unusual blood-tinged
discharge ó make an appointment to see your doctor to have
it evaluated. In most cases, when endometrial cancer is caught
early, it is a highly treatable disease.