cancer is the most common gynecologic cancer in the U.S.,
according to the American Cancer Society. An estimated 60,000
new cases of endometrial cancer — also known as uterine
cancer — are diagnosed annually.
cancer begins in the layer of cells lining the inside of the
uterus. It often is detected at an early stage because it
usually produces abnormal vaginal bleeding. However, more than
10,000 women die each year from this cancer.
endometrial cancer typically affects post-menopausal women, it
can affect adult women at any age.
at higher risk include women who are obese, have high blood
pressure, diabetes or polycystic ovarian syndrome," says
Dr. Jamie Bakkum-Gamez, gynecologic oncologist and surgeon
with the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center. "We also know that
tamoxifen use doubles the risk of endometrial cancer in
addition, about 5 percent of all cases are related to
genetics, says Bakkum-Gamez. "Women who have a familial
history suggestive of Lynch syndrome, which can include a
history of colon, ovarian, stomach, urinary tract and
pancreatic cancers are at higher risk also. Knowing your
family history is important. If there is a strong family
history of cancer, I recommend seeing a genetic
is the primary form of treatment for women with endometrial
cancer. If discovered early, removing the uterus surgically
often cures endometrial cancer, says Bakkum-Gamez.
standard of care is to perform minimally invasive surgery —
usually vaginal, laparoscopic, or robotic surgery. Robotic
surgery has been a major advance in endometrial cancer
management as it decreases complication rates," she
upon pathology and individual risk, chemotherapy is used to
treat some patients. If lymph nodes are involved, patients
also are treated with external radiation. "For some women
with early-stage cancer who are at high risk of a vaginal
recurrence, we also have a form of internal radiation —
vaginal brachytherapy — that is available,"
TESTS AND INNOVATIONS
there is no screening test available for endometrial cancer,
but Bakkum-Gamez is working on research to address early
detection and risk. She is leading a team from Mayo Clinic and
the National Cancer Institute in the development of a new
tampon-based test for endometrial cancer. She is also hoping
to develop virus-based therapies to help destroy cancer cells
in patients with metastatic endometrial cancer.
endometrial cancer metastasizes, it is often very difficult to
treat so it is important for us to identify it early and treat
it most effectively," she says. "I tell women all
the time: any abnormal uterine bleeding should be